Trump says he disagrees with Fauci on testing capabilities
President Trump said Thursday he disagreed with Anthony Fauci’s statement that the U.S. does not yet have the testing capacity that it needs to effectively contain the spread of the novel coronavirus as stay-at-home restrictions are relaxed.
“No, I don’t agree with him on that. I think we are doing a great job on testing,” Trump told reporters at a White House briefing Thursday evening when asked about Fauci’s recent remarks in a Time magazine interview.
“If he said that, I don’t agree with him,” Trump continued.
The president described the U.S. as more advanced than other nations on testing, claiming that other countries have inquired about American capabilities.
“We’re doing very well on testing. We’ve tested far more than anyone else in the world and within a short period of time you’ll be hearing about new tests that are coming out that are going to be incredible,” Trump said.
The Trump administration has come under growing pressure to do more to assist states in ramping up testing nationwide as governors draft plans to begin relaxing stay-at-home orders so that businesses can reopen.
Fauci, a top U.S. infectious disease expert and member of the White House coronavirus task force, told Time in an interview published earlier Thursday that the U.S. needs to “significantly ramp up” testing in order to contain future outbreaks.
“We need to significantly ramp up not only the number of tests, but the capacity to perform them, so that you don’t have a situation where you have a test but it can’t be done because there isn’t a swab, or because there isn’t extraction media, or not the right vial,” Fauci said.
“I am not overly confident right now at all that we have what it takes to do that. We are doing better, and I think we are going to get there, but we are not there yet,” he added.
Fauci, who was not present at Thursday’s briefing, has at times contradicted Trump in his public remarks, drawing criticism from some conservative circles. The president earlier this month retweeted a tweet from an account that included the hashtag #FireFauci, stirring speculation he could be ousted.
The White House swiftly denied that Trump planned to fire Fauci at the time and the president has repeatedly said the two have a positive relationship. Trump has often offered Fauci praise at briefings and the two appear to have a jovial relationship.
Members of the coronavirus task force, including Fauci, said last week that the U.S. had enough testing in place for states to begin moving to “phase one” of reopening that is laid out in the White House guidelines.
In that phase, only select businesses, like gyms and sit-down restaurants, can reopen under strict physical distancing protocols; Americans are still encouraged to continue to telework, avoid nonessential travel and limit gatherings to fewer than 10 people.
“We will have and there will be enough tests to allow us to take this country through phase one,” Fauci said at a briefing last week, after acknowledging there had been an issue with the initial rollout of tests in the U.S.
Fauci told Time in the latest interview that he didn’t think the country needed to be able to test everyone but said there were still “gaps” in the ability to do enough tests to successfully contain the virus.
Vice President Pence said Thursday that the U.S. had performed over 4.93 million tests in total and that commercial labs had ramped up testing to 100,000 per day on Wednesday as states increasingly partner with them.
“We’re beginning to activate all of the capacity,” Pence told reporters at the briefing Thursday.
Pence said the coronavirus task force would have a conference call with governors on testing on Friday during which state officials would discuss ways they are increasing testing capacity.
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