Head of HHS says 'partisan sniping' during coronavirus crisis is 'unnecessary'

Head of HHS says 'partisan sniping' during coronavirus crisis is 'unnecessary'
© Greg Nash

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said Sunday that “partisan sniping” during the coronavirus crisis is “unnecessary” as he defended President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE’s response. 

ABC’s George StephanopoulosGeorge Robert StephanopoulosMeadows defends US COVID-19 testing amid criticism Meadows says White House is 'hopeful' it can announce new coronavirus therapies 'in the coming days' Mary Trump's book sells 950,000 copies in preorders alone MORE asked Azar on “This Week” whether the president should use the word “hoax” when discussing the coronavirus crisis. Trump had previously called the Democrats’ criticism of the administration’s response to the outbreak a “hoax” in a South Carolina campaign rally, comparing it to impeachment.

“Well, he's talking about the partisan sniping that we're seeing, and that's just -- it's unnecessary,” Azar said. “We don't need to have this made a political issue. We're in a public health crisis here. We need to all be banding together.”

Azar also said that health officials are “ramping up testing” for the spreading virus, adding that 75,000 tests are available in the country and that number is expected to increase “radically” in the next week. He reported that more than 3,600 people have been tested in the U.S. 

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The secretary also said there is bipartisan support for an emergency funding bill in Congress. 

“I want to expand that kind of surveillance, testing nationwide,” he said. “As soon as Congress gets us the money, that will be out there throughout the country.”

“How big that gets, we do not know,” he added. “But we have the most advanced public health system and surveillance system in the world.”

The U.S. confirmed Saturday its first death from the coronavirus in Washington state. There are currently 72 cases identified in the U.S., among more than 87,000 worldwide. The global death count has almost reached 3,000, according to Johns Hopkins University data.