Trump wants to reopen the country — but there's still a testing shortage


Lack of testing supplies and slow lab development times continue to be obstacles in fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Donald Trump told Fox News on Tuesday that he is developing plans to end social distancing efforts in the United States in the next few weeks, even as experts say doing so safely would likely require widespread coronavirus testing — something that has not yet been achieved in the country.

Asked by host Sean Hannity how the country would get back to business as usual, Trump said he has "some great people looking at it, because we want to get this country open."

"We have to get our country open again. This wasn't designed to have this. You crack it in half. It's no good. And we'll be opened again, much sooner rather than later," he promised. "And we are going to be coming up with some ideas in the very near future, probably putting them out to the public, putting them out." He said any decision would come after April 30.

According to a recent Bloomberg report, the Trump administration plans to do this through "rapid and widespread testing" to enable public health authorities to identify and isolate both symptomatic and asymptomatic people carrying the virus. The administration hopes to have millions of antibody tests on the market by May so recovered and coronavirus-negative people can go back to their routines.

But testing has been a huge failure in the Trump administration's pandemic response so far.

According to the COVID Tracking Project, as of Tuesday, just about 2 million total tests have been done in the United States to date. The U.S. population is about 330 million people.

Lack of testing supplies and slow lab development times continue to be obstacles, even for the few who are able to get tested. Only recently has the number of tests exceeded 100,000 a day nationwide.

Trump falsely claimed in early March that “anyone who wants a test can get a test. That's what the bottom line is.”

On March 10, Mike Pence told reporters, "Over a million tests have been distributed" and "before the end of this week, another 4 million tests will be distributed."

But Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services and the administration's coordinator for coronavirus testing, told a Texas radio host on March 25, "Right now, the priority is really for those who are hospitalized or sick, health care workers and first responders, people 65 and over who are sick. Because we're not at the level of having tens of millions of people tested."

"If you are healthy, don't worry about it," he advised. "If you're mildly ill, you do not need a test. Stay at home, protect yourself, and call your provider. But you don't need to run in for a test right now ... we're not ready to do 50 million people tomorrow. Right now we have to prioritize."

This is not Trump's first attempt to reopen the economy quickly in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In late March, Trump announced he hoped to see social distancing efforts end by April 12, so that churches could be "packed" for Easter. Experts warned such a move would be deadly, but Trump claimed that only the "LameStream Media" wants to "keep our Country closed." As polls showed 81% of all American voters favoring continued social distancing for as long as needed, Trump backed off.

As of Wednesday, 42 states are under a stay-at-home order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.