The White House has been setting itself up for weeks now to blame governors for the response to the coronavirus, including any failure to procure medical equipment and resources, or problems that arise from restarting businesses and resuming public life.
The administration’s guidelines for reopening cities and towns, released on Thursday, urged states to have the ability to test any individuals who showed symptoms of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, before reopening — even as both Republican and Democratic governors said they needed help tracking down testing supplies.
“To try to push this off to say that the governors have plenty of testing, and they should just get to work on testing — somehow we aren’t doing our job — is just absolutely false,” Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “Every governor in America has been pushing and fighting and clawing to get more tests.”
“Look, we have increased our testing in Maryland by 5,000 percent over the past month, but it’s nowhere near where it needs to be,” Hogan added. “It’s not accurate to say there’s plenty of testing out there, and the governors should just get it done. That’s just not being straightforward.”
White House aides have argued that states need to do a better job of using hospital and private labs to ramp up testing, even as critics of the Trump administration say the president should deploy the Defense Protection Act to force manufacturers to produce the supplies needed for tests like swabs. The president said at a briefing Sunday night he would use the Defense Production Act to produce swabs for coronavirus tests, though he did not offer additional details.
Senior administration officials have instead argued that the governors are misjudging the level of supplies they will need, so much so that the federal government no longer takes their requests as seriously. Both publicly and privately, aides have used the example of New York state asking for tens of thousands of ventilators as an example of this pattern of governors asking for too much. The same dynamic, aides say, will play out with testing.
“I think the low point in the ventilator issue was when Andrew Cuomo was getting on his soapbox there and screaming, he needed 30,000 ventilators, which was twice the amount of stockpile that we had at FEMA,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on Sunday on Fox News. “So, he basically wanted all the ventilators, and forget about the 49 other states.”
“And we’re sending him ventilators and ventilators,” Navarro added. “And it turns out that a lot of those wound up sitting in warehouses. And no American who needs a ventilator has not had one. And we’re going to see the same thing with other kinds of things, including the testing kits.”