Assistant Secretary of Health Admiral Brett Giroir speaks as US President Donald Trump listens during a press conference on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, April 27, 2020.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
There is “no way on Earth” the United States can test 5 million people a day the coronavirusthe government’s top testing official said in an interview just hours before President Donald Trump promised the country would be able to test so many people daily “very soon.”
“There is absolutely no way on Earth, on this planet, or on any other planet, that we can do 20 million tests a day, or even five million tests a day,” said Admiral Brett Giroir, secretary. health assistant in charge of the government’s test response, says TIME in an interview he gave on Tuesday morning which was published later that evening. The interview took place before Trump’s mind-blowing engagement on testing.
Speaking to reporters the next day, Trump denied saying there would be 5 million tests a day, but added that he believed there would, in fact, be 5 million tests a day at a given moment.
“Someone came out with a study of 5 million people. Do I think we’ll do it? I think we’ll do it, but I never said it,” Trump said during a event at the White House. “Someone started throwing in about 5 million. I didn’t say 5 million,” the president insisted, adding, “Well, we’ll be there. But I didn’t say it. I didn’t. didn’t say. “
The United States will be able to test 8 million a month by May, Giroir told Time.
Giroir was responding to the findings of a new study. Harvard University released a report last week That said, the United States should increase its testing capacity to at least 5 million tests per day in early June and 20 million per day in late July, in order to reopen the economy. Giroir told TIME that the assessment is “an ivory tower, an unreasonable benchmark,” adding that it is not necessary based on current modeling.
Trump, when asked at a press conference on the 5 million figure later Tuesday, said, “We will be there very soon.”
The United States has only performed 5.7 million Covid-19 tests in total since the start of the pandemic, according to data compiled by the Covid monitoring project. The highest number of tests the country performed in a single day was 314,182 on April 22, according to the volunteer project designed to track test data launched last month by The Atlantic.
Department of Health and Human Services officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The United States continues to increase its testing capacity as commercial companies increase test production. The Food and Drug Administration has also granted emergency use authorization for several new tests that analyze blood and saliva samples, which may be more effective than standard diagnostic tests, which depend on a nasal swab. .
The ability to test at scale for Covid-19 will be key to preventing a resurgence of the virus as states relax restrictions and reopen businesses, public health specialists and state officials have repeatedly said.
Official White House test data shows 5.1 million Americans were tested on Monday, up from 3.3 million on April 15, according to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
“The United States has performed double the number of tests of any country in the world,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement on Tuesday after Trump’s remarks. “We have exceeded all expectations and continue to lead the world in capacity testing, helping governors ensure they have the ability to safely reopen their states.”
When asked to comment on the Giroir interview on Wednesday, the White House sent the same press secretary statement that it passed on Tuesday night.
Trump’s criticisms have focused on national shortages of effective coronavirus tests, testing supplies, and laboratories capable of handling test results as a central failure in the federal government’s response to the deadly pandemic. Trump rejected this criticism.
“The states, not the federal government, should conduct the testing,” he said in a tweet last week.
On Monday, the administration released a new test “plan” describing what it called a “partnership” between states, the federal government and the private sector. The so-called partnership presented a very limited role for the federal government, however, and left the lion’s share of the responsibility for funding, designing, and executing coronavirus testing plans to individual states.
– CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report.