Trump announces new coronavirus testing plan as states begin to reopen

‘No, I don’t,’ president says when asked if he takes any responsibility for people considering ingesting disinfectant to kill Covid-19

John T. Bennett
Monday 27 April 2020 23:58 BST
Jared Kushner claims Trump's campaign messages of border control are 'vindicated' with coronavirus

Donald Trump announced a new White House plan to help states test 2 per cent of their populations for coronavirus as they either open their economies or start crafting plans to do so.

Public health experts have said the United States needs to test far more people before it would be safe to end a national lockdown, although some southern and midwestern state governors already have started opening up their territories – while mostly being cheered on by the president.

Before Mr Trump, who has previously said testing is “up to the states”, former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, criticised the president for putting “sole responsibility [on] governors while telling them to fly blind without the critical data we derive from testing”.

Several of Mr Trump’s coronavirus task force leaders said the plan would help states “substantially” increase testing to “stop outbreaks”.

Mr Trump and others spoke in between two large screens that, for most of the briefing, featured these words: “Opening Up America Again”. Some Democratic governors, however, are still raising concerns about Mr Trump pushing them to open the country too soon.

There have been 55,000 coronavirus deaths inside the United States and more than 967,500 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. Public health experts say both figures are likely to be significantly higher, and Democrats allege Mr Trump ignored early warnings he got and failed to take the disease seriously enough while it spread across the country.

Yet, he tried to put a positive spin on the situation, again lauding his administration’s performance for what he dubbed an “aggressive” response to the pandemic.

“Things are moving along,” Mr Trump said. “There’s a hunger for getting our country back. And it’s happening faster than people think.”

The president suggested school systems in some areas could soon begin holding in-person classes again, but repeated his view that such decisions are up to governors.

He also gave no credence to reports over the weekend that he is considering firing Alex Azar, his secretary of health and human services.

The president appeared in the Rose Garden to announce the testing programme after first cancelling the day’s coronavirus briefing.

First it was on. (Sunday night.) Then it was off. (Late Monday morning.) Then it was on again. (Early Monday afternoon.)

The zigzagging about whether or not Mr Trump would brief came two days after he appeared to pull the plug on his daily coronavirus briefings following a major flub on Thursday night. That’s when he suggested Americans inject disinfectant to kill Covid-19; the next day, he falsely said he was being sarcastic. “I can’t image why,” Mr Trump said on Monday evening when asked about Maryland GOP governor Larry Hogan saying over the weekend his state had “hundreds” of calls about ingesting household cleaners.

"No, I don't," he said when asked if he takes any responsibility for disinfectant consumption or even someone considering it.

“What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately. They get record ratings, & the American people get nothing but Fake News. Not worth the time & effort!” the president tweeted on Saturday.

A new USA Today/Suffolk poll shows Mr Biden leading Mr Trump nationally by 10 percentage points (50 to 40).

The same survey shows only 2 per cent more of those polled (45 per cent to 43 per cent) view the president as a stronger leader than Mr Biden. The former VP scores higher marks than the incumbent when people were asked which candidate cares more about people like me: Biden 57 per cent; Trump 39 per cent.

As the president briefed, a new report surfaced citing intelligence community officials saying the president’s daily intelligence briefing in January and February included warnings about the coronavirus.

“I’ve said this a million times, because it had to be true based on my experience in the WH. Glad that these reporters have confirmed it. Trump knew, he saw and did nothing,” tweeted Joe Lockhart, a former White House press secretary under President Bill Clinton. “In fact just the opposite... told everyone to stand down.”

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