After insisting it was up to governors to ramp up coronavirus testing in their states, the Trump administration is finally acknowledging their pleas for help.
Vice President Mike Pence will lead a teleconference with the nation's governors Monday morning from FEMA headquarters in response to calls for a national testing strategy to help secure in-demand supplies like testing swabs and chemical reagents — a day after Trump announced that he would be using the Defense Production Act to compel one company to manufacture swabs.
Pence will "review what more they can do and do together to develop locally tailored testing strategies," Trump said at a White House news conference Sunday. "We want to help them out."
Officials and health experts say the country needs to dramatically scale its testing infrastructure if it is going to safely roll back restrictions and reopen businesses without risking a major spike in infections that would negate weeks of social distancing and economic strife.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, told ABC's "Good Morning America" Monday morning that the nation is currently running about 1.5 to 2 million tests per week. But, "we really need to get up to, at least, you know, maybe two times that, three times that."
Administration officials have insisted that the U.S. currently has enough testing capacity to safely implement "Phase One" of a plan they released last week to begin a slow return to normalcy. And they have argued that states could be running twice as many tests as they are now if only they were using all the equipment they already have access to.
"So we really gotta help them to get to it. And that's what's being done right now, to try to make the connectivity between what's unused capacity as well as tests within that capacity to help them," Fauci said. "We gotta keep going. It's gotta be done together really in a partnership."
Trump on Sunday said the White House would be sending sending governors a list of the large laboratory machines in their state before the call.
"They have a lot of machinery in the states that some aren't that aware of, but they're there," he said.
But governors on both sides of the aisle have been complaining for weeks now that they can't ramp up testing without federal assistance, especially when it comes to accessing supplies.
"We really need help," Republican Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Maryland's Republican Gov. Larry Hogan told CNN Sunday.that testing was "probably the number one problem in America, and has been from the beginning of this crisis."
"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," he said. "Every governor in America has been pushing and fighting and clawing to get more tests, not only from the federal government, but from every private lab in America and from all across the world."
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, another Republican, on Friday called on the federal government to take a larger role to stop states from competing against once another for supplies.
"It's a perilous set of circumstances trying to figure out how to make this work, and until we've got the testing up to speed — which has got to be part of the federal government stepping in and helping — we're just not going to be there," he said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
In recent days, however, protesters have taken to the streets in some states, flouting their governors' stay-at-home orders and social distancing regulations as they demand an end to restrictions.
Fauci told ABC that, "clearly this is something that is hurting from the standpoint of economics," but warned that, "unless we get the virus under control, the real recovery economically is not gonna happen."
"So what you do if you jump the gun and go into a situation where you have a big spike, you're gonna set yourself back," he said. "It's gonna backfire. That's the problem."