Romney: US testing record 'nothing to celebrate whatsoever'

Republican Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyBiden on Trump's refusal to commit to peaceful transfer of power: 'What country are we in?' Romney: 'Unthinkable and unacceptable' to not commit to peaceful transition of power The Memo: Trump's strengths complicate election picture MORE (Utah) on Tuesday pushed back on a Trump official’s claim that the U.S. is leading the world in COVID-19 testing, beating countries like South Korea, which is regarded by some experts as the testing gold standard. 

“I find our testing record nothing to celebrate whatsoever,” Romney said, referring to remarks made Monday by President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden on Trump's refusal to commit to peaceful transfer of power: 'What country are we in?' Romney: 'Unthinkable and unacceptable' to not commit to peaceful transition of power Two Louisville police officers shot amid Breonna Taylor grand jury protests MORE and Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services. 

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“I understand that politicians are going to frame data in a way that's most positive politically. Of course, I don't expect that from admirals,” Romney said to Giroir during a Senate Health Committee hearing on the coronavirus pandemic. 

Romney noted that South Korea achieved widespread testing of its population in the early days of the outbreak while the U.S. “treaded water” on testing.

“The fact is their test numbers are going down, down, down now because they don't have the kind of outbreak we have,” he said. 

Both Giroir and Trump asserted Monday at a White House press conference that the U.S. has done more than twice the rate of testing per capita than was achieved in South Korea. 

“No matter how you look at it, America is leading the world in testing,” Giroir said Monday. 

Romney also asked Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health Care: Health officials tell public to trust in science | Despair at CDC under Trump influence | A new vaccine phase 3 trial starts Health officials tell public to trust in science Fauci scolds Rand Paul during tense exchange at hearing MORE, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, whether Trump's comments about former President Obama being responsible for the lack of a vaccine are true.

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"No senator, not at all," Fauci replied. "Certainly [neither] President Obama nor President Trump are responsible for not having a vaccine."

It was not immediately clear to which comments Romney was referring.

COVID-19 testing has greatly improved since the early days of the outbreak in the U.S., with more than 9.4 million tests completed as of Tuesday afternoon. 

But testing availability still varies widely from state to state and is far off from where it needs to be to safely reopen the economy, experts say. 

Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute who has been critical of the testing structure in the U.S., said Monday it is “silly” to compare the U.S. to South Korea because “our outbreak is 40x bigger” and “we have tested 2x as many folks.” 

“At this point, the key isn’t [South Korea,]” Jha tweeted. 

“Its how many do we need to open up safely” and “a bunch more” is needed, he added.

—Updated at 2:53 p.m.