Arizona Sen. Martha McSally claimed the number of tests was increasing during a town hall meeting last week. Official counts say otherwise.
Republican Arizona Sen. Martha McSally told participants in a telephone town hall last week that Arizona was "ramping up" coronavirus testing daily, even as official numbers revealed the opposite.
McSally was asked by a constituent about the lack of availability of testing during a call on Thursday.
"We're ramping up testing every single day. It is being managed at the state level with the federal partnerships," she claimed. "And so the intent here, again, I'm not going to speak on behalf of Gov. [Doug] Ducey, but I know part of their way forward in our coordination with them is ramping up testing for frontline health care workers."
McSally also talked of the importance of both antibody testing and testing for the coronavirus itself.
According to Arizona's official counts, the number of weekly tests done at the end of March was actually higher than the number of tests done in any week of April.
"The high-water mark for tests came four weeks ago, during the week that ended March 28, when 12,728 tests were conducted. Since then, weekly testing numbers fell to 11,864, and then 10,684 for the week ending April 11," the Arizona Republic reported Friday, one day after McSally's town hall.
"The number edged up last week, to 11,127 tests, according to state data on Thursday. But that figure is still 13% lower than the number of tests done at the end of March," prior to the state's stay-at-home order, the outlet noted.
In total, 67,438 lab tests have been completed in Arizona, through April 27. The state has reported 6,948 COVID-19 cases and 293 deaths in total.
With limited supplies, testing has been a national struggle. According to the COVID Tracking Project, fewer than 5.8 million tests have been completed nationally in a country of more than 329 million people. That number includes some people who have been tested more than once.
Republicans have downplayed the problem. Donald Trump falsely claimed in March that the testing was "all perfect" and that "anybody that wants a test can get a test." He also gave misleading information, claiming the United States had done "far more" testing than any other country.
In reality, as Yahoo News noted last month, it's "unclear, owing to a lack of information from China, whether that is in fact the largest number of people tested by a single country, although it appears improbable based on the figures available." Trump's claim also doesn't account for the "difference in population between the U.S. and smaller countries like South Korea," the outlet added.
On April 16, Trump bragged, "In recent days we've seen a dramatic increase in the number of tests performed by hospitals and academic institutions." He complained that some journalists "falsely reported this as a bad thing when in fact it's a great thing because it indicates that the states are moving to faster, more local testing solutions including on the spot tests."
In fact, commercial labs told Politico earlier this month that they were "sitting on excess capacity" and were "ready to do more testing," but needed clearer guidance from the administration.
"We need to look to the future — the time is now to agree on what testing is needed and at what volumes, and put in place the resources to enable it to happen. That takes federal leadership," said Julie Khani, president of the American Clinical Laboratory Association.
Medical experts have said that the lack of testing and slow approach has directly led to the current crisis.
Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told Politico earlier this month that the nation would need up to 3.8 million tests per week in order to properly assess the scale of the outbreak and construct a broader vision for reopening the country eventually. That's far higher than the current pace of testing, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, also said last week that "inadequate testing" was to blame for the current economic spiral.
"We believe we need to be at least 500,000 tests a day. And most people criticize us for being too low. Other people think it's a lot more than that," he added.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.