U.S. President Donald Trump announced plans to distribute 150 million rapid coronavirus tests and urged governors to use them to reopen schools, amid reporting that a member of his coronavirus task force is concerned the president is receiving incorrect information about the pandemic.
In a speech at the White House Rose Garden, Trump called the plan a “massive and groundbreaking expansion” of testing capability, “more than double the number of tests already performed.
“Fifty million tests will go to protect the most vulnerable communities, which we've always promised to do, including 18 million for nursing homes, 15 million for assisted living facilities,10 million for home health and hospice care, hospice care agencies and nearly 1 million for historically black colleges and universities, and also tribal nation colleges,” Trump said.
The administration is encouraging schools to use the rapid Abbott Laboratories tests, which deliver results in 15 minutes, to help restart and maintain in-person teaching so that parents can return to work.
“One hundred million rapid, point-of-care tests will be given to states and territories to support efforts to reopen their economies in schools immediately and fast as they can,” Trump said.
Last week Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden criticized Trump for not having a national standard to safely reopen schools and said that he had released a plan to do so in July.
Biden stressed that reopening schools should only be done with adequate protections including masks and sanitizing and based on health considerations such as the reinfection rate.
“If it’s down below one then it's rational that you can, with those protections, go ahead and open a school but watch it very closely. But it requires testing and tracing to make sure you're still on course there,” Biden said.
‘Everything he says is false’
Trump’s announcement came amid reporting that the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, suggested in a conversation with a colleague Friday that Dr. Scott Atlas, the newest member of the president’s coronavirus task force, is arming Trump with misleading data about the virus, including on the efficacy of masks and the potential benefits of herd immunity.
"Everything he says is false," Redfield said during a phone call made in public on a commercial airline and overheard by NBC News.
The CDC did not dispute that Redfield was speaking about Atlas in the overheard conversation.
“NBC News is reporting one side of a private phone conversation by CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield that was overheard on a plane from Atlanta Hartsfield airport. Dr. Redfield was having a private discussion regarding a number of points he has made publicly about COVID-19,” said a CDC spokesman in an email to NBC.
Atlas is a neuroradiologist with no background in infectious diseases or public health who was brought on to the White House task force in August. Before he joined the task force, Atlas was a frequent guest on Fox News, where he pushed to reopen the country and espoused views that more closely align with the president’s opinions on the pandemic.
Trump invited Atlas to speak during the coronavirus testing announcement. Redfield was not present at Monday’s event, neither were two other members of the coronavirus task force, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx.