- In the early weeks of the coronavirus outbreak in the US, President Donald Trump’s main focus was on keeping the number of infections low, the Politico reporter Dan Diamond told NPR on Thursday.
- For that reason, Trump did not push to ensure adequate testing capabilities, Diamond said.
- “The president had made clear: The lower the numbers on coronavirus, the better for the president, the better for his potential reelection this fall,” Diamond said.
- Diamond said Alex Azar, the health and human services secretary, also “has not always given the president the worst-case scenario of what could happen.”
- The Department of Health and Human Services distanced Azar from Diamond’s remarks, while the White House declined to comment on the record.
- The Trump administration has recently faced criticism for the lack of testing facilities to assess the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country.
- On Friday, Trump blamed those problems on the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the Obama administration.
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President Donald Trump did not push for more coronavirus testing because he thought that higher infection rates would dent his reelection chances, Politico’s Dan Diamond told NPR on Thursday.
Diamond, who covers health policy for the outlet, was asked about the Trump administration’s early response to the outbreak and about concerns that the government had not done enough to stem the outbreak across the country.
“My understanding is he did not push to do aggressive additional testing in recent weeks, and that’s partly because more testing might have led to more cases being discovered of coronavirus outbreak, and the president had made clear: The lower the numbers on coronavirus, the better for the president, the better for his potential reelection this fall,” Diamond said, according to an NPR transcript.
US health authorities have tested about 12,000 people for the disease since January, while authorities in South Korea have tested as many as 10,000 people a day.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also “has not always given the president the worst-case scenario of what could happen,” Diamond told NPR.
In response to a request for comment, a Department of Health and Human Services representative directed Business Insider to a tweet from NPR clarifying that it was Trump and not Azar who did not push for more testing facilities.
A previous tweet of this quote did not make it adequately clear that it is Trump who did not push for adequate testing, not Secretary of Health and Human Services Azar. Here is the whole quote for context. @ddiamond pic.twitter.com/ZZ2aPF53m6
— Fresh Air (@nprfreshair) March 12, 2020
The White House declined to speak on the record.
According to multiple reports, one of Trump’s key concerns in the early weeks of the outbreak was how negative statements from health officials could affect the financial markets. The president has long regarded the health of the markets as a barometer for the strength of his presidency.
Trump’s statements seeking to project optimism and downplay the threat of the virus have been at odds with the somber warnings of health officials.
“It goes away,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s going away. We want it to go away with very, very few deaths.”
At a White House briefing last week, he was corrected by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, after falsely claiming that a vaccine for the virus would soon be available.
There has been widespread confusion about the availability of coronavirus test kits in the country, and the Trump administration has faced mounting allegations that it failed to ensure adequate testing capabilities.
Trump claimed last week that anyone who wanted a test could get one, but reports from across the country have described difficulties in procuring testing kits.
On Tuesday, Fauci told Congress that testing in the US was inadequate.
“The system is not really geared to what we need right now,” Fauci said.
ER doc described 2 recent patients in enough respiratory distress to be admitted to the hospital, tested negative for flu and 20 common viruses, had CT scans consistent with Covid-19. State denied them both testing. Doc: “It made me realize that they weren’t testing anyone.” https://t.co/q3rgzpWTH6
— emma brown (@emmersbrown) March 12, 2020
In a tweet on Friday morning, Trump sought to shift blame to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the Obama administration.
“For decades the @CDCgov looked at, and studied, its testing system, but did nothing about it. It would always be inadequate and slow for a large scale pandemic, but a pandemic would never happen, they hoped,” Trump said. “President Obama made changes that only complicated things further.”
He added: “Their response to H1N1 Swine Flu was a full scale disaster, with thousands dying, and nothing meaningful done to fix the testing problem, until now. The changes have been made and testing will soon happen on a very large scale basis. All Red Tape has been cut, ready to go!”
- Read more:
- Trump says it’s not a ‘big deal’ he hasn’t been tested for coronavirus, despite interacting with GOP lawmakers who’ve self-quarantined
- Trump’s health secretary says ‘we don’t know’ how many Americans have been tested for coronavirus
- The UK is in a state of ‘genuine disbelief’ about how bad Trump’s response to the coronavirus outbreak has been