White House officials and loyalists of President Donald Trump tried on Sunday to move away from comments he made on the weekend in which he told rally participants that he asked officials to slow down COVID-19 testing to reduce the number of confirmed cases in the United States.
“He was obviously joking,” a White House official told The Daily Beast. Peter Navarro, Trump’s senior adviser, told Fox News on Sunday that the president’s words were “mocking” and should not be taken seriously.
But two officials working on the coronavirus response in the Trump administration, as well as government officials and emergency response experts, told The Daily Beast that they did not take the president’s remarks lightly. Regardless of whether they were offensive or not, Trump’s occasional indifference to testing at his rally in Tulsa only confirmed that his administration was not ready when a reaction to the pandemic erupted, and perhaps still will not.
“I was always afraid that this was exactly what was happening,” said one state health official who coordinates the testing with the federal government. “But his speech yesterday showed that this is perhaps why they are in no hurry to get the resources we need for testing.”
And two administration officials, both of whom worked with the president’s task force, said Trump’s speech on Saturday sparked long-standing concerns among some who worked on his response to coronavirus, that the administration might have tried to find ways to reduce the incidence. diseases in the USA.
For more than a month, state and local officials have called on the federal government to help test resources so they can better understand the extent of the virus in their communities. The test plan proposed by adviser to Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner was failed expectations, and the governors turned to the administration for their inability to quickly create a system within which states could purchase test kits and provide them with symptomatic residents. Some municipalities waited so long for help that local officials were forced to settle for contracts with local laboratories with limited testing capabilities. Although the number of tests has increased in recent weeks and months, some officials say it’s too late.
Although Trump’s comments raise questions about whether the administration prevented, intentionally or recklessly, from implementing test plans, they also emphasize how convenient it is for the president to inspect the virus, which killed more than 120,000 people in the United States.
Current and former officials say the White House’s assertion that the president was just joking is hard to believe in part because Trump has made such comments in the past.
“The quote last night was a natural continuation of what he said publicly for a while: if you don’t check, then there is no problem,” said Juliette Kayem, former assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. “You don’t have to look very hard to understand that Trump was a skeptic about testing, and last night he just said the quiet part out loud.”
A senior Trump administration official told The Daily Beast that while Trump’s statements do not necessarily reflect reality within the administration, the president’s thought about testing — which more testing would mean more scrutiny — is well known among those working on a government COVID. -19 answer.
“Since the start of the coronavirus crisis in our country, the president has ignored experts, refuted the facts and put his interests above the lives of Americans – and here he says so.” said Senator Patti Murray (D-WA), citing President Tulsa’s speech. Murray is a senior member of the Senate Committee on Health, Labor and Pensions.
Since the outbreak began in the United States, Trump has sought to deflect blame for the increased incidence of coronavirus and related deaths. When the first cruise ship with patients with coronavirus moored in California after a trip to Japan, the president told reporters that he was not responsible for the increase in the number of cases of the disease, as people were infected with the virus elsewhere. Over the course of several weeks, the administration tried to calculate case numbers based on those received in the US and those received abroad. And as the pandemic continued to worsen, Trump said US numbers are increasing because the country has expanded its UP testing initiatives, even though health officials say the increase in cases is not necessarily the result of increased testing.
The Daily Beast previously reported that trump and his members coronavirus task force drove officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to change how the agency works with states to count COVID-related deaths. In May, the president privately expressed suspicion of the death toll in the United States, and during negotiations with senior officials, he suggested that these numbers could be incorrectly calculated or even overstated using the current methodology.
CDC officials earlier said State health departments are still counting the total number of cases and related deaths in the country, especially in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
And the Trump administration seems to continue to try to ignore the fact that several states in the south and southwest of the country have seen a significant surge in the number of cases where increased testing is not a determining factor.
“The joke is above us,” said Kayem. “We stayed in weeks for weeks under a tacit social contract that was going to give the nation time to have alternatives to social distance. And they did not. The nationwide testing plan never succeeded, as they promised. ”