GOP senator blames Trump-appointed CDC officials for testing failures

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Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) says 'bureaucracy' at the CDC is behind the Trump administration's coronavirus testing failures.

Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) blamed the Trump administration's coronavirus testing failures on bureaucracy at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during an appearance on Fox News Wednesday.

"We lost about 40 days out of the gate when the CDC mostly wanted to do its own test," Braun complained on Fox News. "And that's the bureaucracy the president's run into, and that's what we've been dealing with."

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The "bureaucracy" at the top of the CDC was appointed by and answers to the Trump administration.

Dr. Robert Redfield was named current director of the CDC in March 2018 by Donald Trump's secretary of health and human services, Alex Azar. Azar praised Redfield's "peerless" scientific and clinical experience, saying, "Dr. Redfield has dedicated his entire life to promoting public health and providing compassionate care to his patients, and we are proud to welcome him as director of the world's premier epidemiological agency."

Redfield's predecessor, Brenda Fitzgerald, was also a Trump administration appointee.

Redfield's nomination was controversial. Critics noted his outsized salary in the position. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) accused him of a "pattern of ethically and morally questionable behavior," including allegations of that he misrepresented the results of drug trials.

Braun's comment referred to a decision by the CDC in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to distribute testing kits that it had created rather than those provided by the World Health Organization and already in use in other countries. The tests proved both insufficient in number and nonfunctional. Trump blamed his administration's early testing failures on Barack Obama, falsely blaming Obama for giving him faulty coronavirus tests, even though Obama couldn't have created a test for a virus that didn't exist yet when he was president.

The lack of early widespread testing and the ongoing shortage of testing have emerged as a complicating factor as the nation struggles to contain the pandemic.

Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said last month: "We've been woefully behind this entire time. And I think what most Americans need to know is the reason we are shut down — our economy is shut down — is because we've had inadequate testing." He called for at least 500,000 tests per day, a figure much higher than even the nation's current pace of testing.

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told Politico last month that the nation would need up to 3.8 million tests each week if it wanted to properly assess the scale of the outbreak and reopen safely.

Trump has praised his own testing efforts, bragging on Twitter on Tuesday, "Our Testing is the BEST in the World, by FAR! Numbers are coming down in most parts of our Country, which wants to open and get going again. It is happening, safely!"

Braun tweeted last week that the "U.S. leads the world in #COVID19 testing by a large margin."

As Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) noted on Tuesday, the rate of testing in the United States is increasing now because it was so low for the first several weeks of the crisis. As a result, he noted, the nation's confirmed death toll is now about 80,000. This is the worst death toll in the world, also by a large margin.

Trump's claiming of credit for U.S. testing rates is contradicted by his earlier insistence that testing is the responsibility of states and is a "local thing," not a federal responsibility.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.