As the United States is about to pass the milestone of doing 10 million tests for the coronavirus, the White House announced an $11 billion aid package to help states boost testing.
“This will give them the resources to partner, as they have, with the federal government … and to achieve their testing goals,” Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, said Monday during a Rose Garden press conference.
But strings will be attached to the new aid for states to fight COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the admiral said.
“We are going to be very specific, and they know it,” Giroir said. “There needs to be minimum numbers planned to test. They have to have plans for their vulnerable communities, including nursing homes, including those who are disabled, including those who are in prisons or who have working environments that [mean] they may have more likelihood to spread the infection.”
HHS will offer a large contract to ensure that underserved racial and ethnic minorities “are linked to the services they need, not only in testing but in care as well,” Giroir added.
President Donald Trump stressed that testing for COVID-19 has doubled in less than a month, citing the Food and Drug Administration.
“The FDA has authorized more than 92 different [kinds of] tests and over 9 million have been performed here in the United States. Three weeks ago, we were conducting nearly 150,000 tests per day,” Trump said. “Now, we are doing approximately 300,000 tests per day, a 100% increase, and it will go up substantially from that number.”
The president continued:
This week, the United States will pass 10 million tests conducted, nearly double the number of any other country. We are testing more people per capita than South Korea, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Sweden, Finland, and many other countries, and in some cases combined.
On Friday, the FDA authorized the coronavirus antigen tests, an alternative testing technology that can be much more readily manufactured.
On ramping up testing, which his detractors say came too slowly, Trump said: “We have met the moment and we have prevailed.”
Trump noted that the U.S. and Germany have the lowest number of deaths per capita from COVID-19 of any country.
Addressing the news that a White House aide was diagnosed last week with the coronavirus, Trump said the system did not “break down,” as a reporter put it.
He also said he didn’t feel vulnerable.
“We have a lot of people in the White House, and we had one person [who tested positive],” the president said, adding:
We have a lot of people that work here. This building is shocking, if you look at the numbers. It’s also tremendous numbers of people coming in. Normally, you wouldn’t do that, but because we are running a country, we want to keep our country running. So we have a lot of people coming in and out.
Many of those people, most of those people are tested, depending on what portion of the Oval Office area they are in. Everyone coming into the president’s office gets tested. I felt no vulnerability whatsoever.
Trump again wasn’t wearing a mask during the press conference, but he noted that the White House staff does so now.
When asked if he gave the order for masks, the president replied: “Yes, I did. I required it.”
“If they are a certain distance from me or a certain distance from each other, they do. In the case of me, I’m not close to anybody,” Trump said, then pointed to White House staffers present. “If you look at those people over there, everyone of them, they are White House staffers, White House representatives, White House executives, and everybody has a mask on.”
Trump abruptly ended the press conference when two reporters in a row appeared to chide him, one saying that he was talking abut testing as if it were “a competition” with other nations.