Coronavirus: White House to provide $11bn to states for testing despite ‘held their hands’ jab

Harvard experts say US needs to test 900,000 people each day

John T. Bennett
Washington DC
Monday 11 May 2020 20:19 BST
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The White House will devote $11bn to bolster coronavirus testing across the country, with officials saying 9 million new tests will be available later this month as they continued to put the onus for testing on governors. One senior administration official took a shot at some governors, saying the White House has “held their hands” on testing.

The official contended, echoing Donald Trump, that “America has been leading the world in Covid testing”, even as public health officials, physicians and Democratic legislators continue calling the administration’s testing effort slow and inadequate.

The president was slated to announce the $11bn in testing aid to states during a 4pm press conference in the White House Rose Garden. Those funds were allocated by Congress in one of the massive coronavirus relief packages that Mr Trump signed into law.

There have been 8.9 million tests conducted so far in the United States, with the official telling reporters the country likely will pass the 10 million tests performed mark by the end of this week. There were 1.9 million tests conducted last week, the senior administration official said.

But public health experts like a group at Harvard University have said the country needs to be testing around 900,000 each day.

Like the president, the senior official said repeatedly that states are responsible for getting their residents tested.

“We have now given the tools to the states ... to complete their testing goals,” the senior official said. “We’ll work with them.”

But the senior official, also echoing the president, grew defensive when asked why testing help for states to prioritise care facilities for seniors was not prioritised months ago when Covid-19 was decimating such a care centre in Washington state.

The official said it is “not a miracle” that states are meeting their individual testing goals — many are not, others are coming just shy of doing so — because “we’ve held their hand and we’ve explained to them how to do it”.

“And now they’re taking credit,” the senior official said.

The 9 million extra tests expected this month are “point of care tests”, the official said, adding that the White House has asked states to submit testing plans in a few weeks. Those should include “contact tracing” proposals, a practice meant to help track where someone contracted the virus and to whom they might have spread it.

Experts say contact tracing can help state and local officials isolate those who have contracted or have been exposed to the virus.

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