Public/Global Health

Romney: US testing record ‘nothing to celebrate whatsoever’

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Republican Sen. Mitt Romney (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 Trump and Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services. 

“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 Fauci, 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.

“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.

Tags Anthony Fauci Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; CDC Coronavirus Donald Trump Mitt Romney South Korea

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