Government confirms 'severe' lack of tests after Trump said 'anyone' could get one

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A lack of testing has been an issue since the coronavirus was first reported in the United States.  

Hospitals across the country are "unable to keep up with COVID-19 testing demands," according to a report released Monday by the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The report, based on a survey of hospitals conducted from March 23 through 27, said, "Hospitals reported that severe shortages of testing supplies and extended waits for test results limited hospitals' ability to monitor the health of patients and staff."

A lack of testing has been an issue since the coronavirus was first reported in the United States.

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On Saturday, a report from the Washington Post said the Trump administration's "most consequential failure" was its inability to design, manufacture, and distribute a coronavirus test. Inadequate testing meant that public health experts were unable to map where the virus was spreading.

The inspector general's survey results contradict Trump's repeated claims of widespread availability of testing.

"Anyone who wants a test can get a test," Trump said on March 6 during a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That claim was rated a "Pants on Fire" lie by Politifact.

On March 13, Trump promised "1.4 million tests on board next week and 5 million within a month," adding, "I doubt we'll need anywhere near that."

On March 21, the Associated Press said Trump's promise of more tests had "little bearing on the actual number of patients tested since most U.S. labs can process fewer than 100 patient samples per day." That week, government officials reported that only 60,000 people in the entire country had been tested for coronavirus since January.

As recently as March 30, Trump said that he was not aware of any issues with testing.

On a phone call between Trump and state governors, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock told Trump, "We don't even have enough supplies to do the testing" in some parts of his state.

"I haven't heard about testing in weeks," Trump said. "We've tested more now than any nation in the world. We've got these great tests, and we'll come out with another one tomorrow that's, you know, almost instantaneous testing. But I haven't heard anything about testing being a problem."

Contradicting Trump, one hospital administrator told the Health and Human Services inspector general that "millions [of tests] are needed, and we only have hundreds."

On April 2, NPR reported that testing had improved, but that the United States still lagged behind countries such as Germany and South Korea in per capita testing.

In addition to a lack of available tests, the report found hospitals are facing many additional challenges.

There is a widespread shortage of personal protective equipment, or PPE, the report said. Due to the coronavirus crisis, hospitals reported more equipment use but said, "the lack of a robust supply chain was delaying or preventing them from restocking PPE needed to protect staff."

Trump has accused nurses and hospital staff of stealing equipment but provided no evidence to back up such a claim.

At a March 30 White House briefing, Trump said he was told by a source that masks are "going out the back door" in hospitals in New York City, one of the nation's coronavirus hot spots.

"When you go from 10,000 masks to 300,000 masks," Trump said, "there's something going on."

And while no hospitals reported a lack of ventilators at the time the survey was taken, many anticipated that they would not have enough in the coming weeks and months to deal with the volume of patients who will need them.

The report quoted hospital administrators noting ethical concerns in deciding who receives critical treatment and who does not if there are not enough ventilators.

On March 26, Trump disputed a report by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that New York needed more equipment.

"I don't believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators," Trump told host Sean Hannity, wondering why "all of a sudden" there is a need for more of the lifesaving machines.

A few days later, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said, "I tend to believe Gov. Cuomo."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.