Trump says his government ‘did not screw up’ virus testing

Josh Wingrove and Justin Sink

President Donald Trump defended the slow pace of coronavirus testing in the U.S., saying in a Fox News “virtual town hall” on Tuesday that the government “did not screw up” and is now a “model.”

“We did not screw up and I don’t think CDC screwed up either,” Trump said, again blaming difficulties in fielding a U.S. coronavirus test on a “system” established by his predecessors.

“Nobody ever expected a thing like this, nobody would say that millions of millions of people would have been tested,” he said. “So what we did is broke that egg, we broke that system and we created a new system that now we’re doing unbelievably big numbers.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed its own test for coronavirus after Chinese scientists published the virus’s genome in early January, but the agency experienced problems both confirming its accuracy and manufacturing it at scale.

Nearly 329,000 Americans have been tested for the virus as of Tuesday, according to the Covid 19 Tracking Project, which relies on data from state health authorities to count tests performed. Trump and complimented the government on the Fox program for having exceeded the number of tests performed in South Korea – a country of about 51 million people, or less than one-sixth the U.S.

Deborah Birx, the State Department physician who advises Vice President Mike Pence on the government’s coronavirus response, said on the program that South Korea had conducted about 290,000 tests.

“We took something that was broken and we made it the model,” Trump said. He said later that “our tests are better” than in South Korea.

But sick Americans and health-care providers continue to complain on social media that tests are in short supply. Pence said that the government is “prioritizing” testing people who arrive at hospitals and urged Americans to only seek a test if they feel sick.

A doctor invited to ask a question during the Fox News program said she has colleagues “who still can’t” test their patients.