GOP chairman warns: Without more coronavirus testing, hard to go back to work, school

GOP chairman warns: Without more coronavirus testing, hard to go back to work, school
© Greg Nash

Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration Authorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate The Republicans' deep dive into nativism MORE (R-Tenn.) warned on Wednesday that without an increase in coronavirus testing it would be difficult to start reopening the country, something President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE has signaled he hopes happens soon.

“Without more tests with quick results, it will be difficult to contain this disease and give Americans confidence to go back to work and back to school," Alexander, who chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in a statement.

Alexander's comments come as Trump and several Senate Republicans are signaling they want to quickly start to reopen businesses and other sectors that have been closed by the coronavirus pandemic. 

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Some Republican lawmakers have warned that the economic damage being sparked by the coronavirus and the subsequent social distancing restrictions outweigh the health impact. The United States has more than 630,000 confirmed cases and more than 27,000 deaths. 

“We’ve got to deal with the economic devastation of all of the people who are hurting and I’ll tell you it is time for Texans to go back to work," Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzMatthew McConaughey on potential political run: 'I'm measuring it' Professor tells Cruz that Texas's voter ID law is racist Schumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks MORE (R-Texas) told a local Texas TV station on Wednesday. 

A lack of supplies like swabs and chemicals is a major obstacle to expanding COVID-19 testing in the U.S. and eventually reopening parts of the economy, according to health officials and governors

Public health officials have said that widespread testing is crucial in order to reopen shuttered parts of the economy, a decision that if made too soon, they warn, is likely to lead to a second spike of coronavirus cases. 

But Alexander also appeared to rebuff a call from Senate Democrats for more testing funding. Democratic leadership introduced their own plan earlier Wednesday to ramp up nationwide testing, including calling for an additional $30 billion in emergency funding. 

But Alexander noted that Congress included $38 billion in a massive $2.2 trillion package passed month for developing tests, treatment and vaccines for the coronavirus, and should first use that money. 

"Nothing is more important than finding a new diagnostic technology that will make it possible to test tens of millions of Americans, something our country has never tried to do before. We should start by using the money Congress has already provided, put politics aside, and work together on more tests with quick results," he said.