White House denies report that national coronavirus testing plan was scrapped to hurt blue states

Admiral Brett Giroir, U.S. Assistant Secretary For Health, speaks during a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing in Washington, D.C., July 31, 2020.

Erin Scott | Pool | Reuters

The White House on Friday denied a report claiming the Trump administration scrapped plans for a national coronavirus testing strategy to make Democratic governors in some of the hardest-hit states look bad as “entirely false.” 

According to an article published Thursday in Vanity Fair, a team led by the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, created a national testing plan early in the nation’s response to the pandemic that called for the federal government to coordinate the distribution of test kits to heavily impacted areas, among other recommendations. The publication said it had obtained a copy of the plan. 

“The article consistently misstates and misrepresents,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement. “The article is completely incorrect in its assertion that any testing was stopped for political or other reasons.”

The report said Kushner’s team worked separately from the Department of Health and Human Services team led by Adm. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary for health at HHS, which was tasked in mid-March with coordinating the nation’s testing efforts among the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, as well as state and local public health authorities and private or public clinical laboratories. 

However, Kushner’s plan was reportedly scrapped by the Trump administration because the coronavirus was hitting Democrat-led states the hardest, and a national strategy “would not make sense politically,” Vanity Fair reported, citing a public health expert who spoke with a member on Kushner’s team familiar with the matter. 

“I have never heard something so preposterous as ‘we’re not going to do a national plan because it’s affecting Democratic states,'” Giroir said in an interview on Fox News. Giroir is leading the U.S. testing effort. “I would like to put that to rest because it’s really ridiculous and it foments mistrust in the public health system.” 

Giroir said on Fox News that he saw Kushner’s plan and “implemented parts” of it. 

“We were all working together, there was no separation or no closet Cabinet or no super-secret kind of plans. We all worked together,” Giroir said. 

Earlier this year, as the coronavirus spread from Asia and Europe to the U.S., states with Democrat governors, such as Washington, New York and California, were among the first to report severe coronavirus outbreaks. New York eventually became the country’s epicenter, reporting nearly 800 deaths every day at the height of its outbreak in April. 

At the time, the federal government struggled to advance the nation’s testing capacity and delegated the task to the states. New York scrambled to buy coronavirus test kits, eventually ramping up its own equipment manufacturing and lab testing capacity in the state. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been a frequent critic of the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, calling it the “virus of American division and federal incompetence.”

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