Trump has tried to get around his perception problem by pinning the blame for speeding up tests on the nation’s governors, who have been complaining for weeks that they are unable to get enough buffers, chemicals or supplies to run the tests themselves. His latest tension came from Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, whom Trump criticized even though the governor followed Trump’s instructions for states to get their own tests.
“We are progressing very quickly,” Trump said of the tests at the White House briefing on Monday. “And we will double our number of daily tests if governors put their states fully online at the capacity they have. We already have enormous capabilities. “
“We will have tests in two weeks that will blow up the industry,” he said later in Monday’s briefing.
Two-thirds of voters in a recent NBC / Wall Street Journal poll said Trump hadn’t taken the threat of the virus seriously enough at first, and almost half said he still didn’t treat it well.
The administration’s response to the coronavirus now overshadows all of the Trump’s carefully planned efforts to highlight Trump’s record on the economy, court appointments or deregulation.
Trump’s allies have attempted to combat a story that the President was behind the curve by focusing on Trump’s first steps to fight the virus. Administration officials have boosted Trump’s defenses at every turn they can, most recently by promoting a five minute video by GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw the president also promoted on his Twitter feed on Sunday.
“The biggest political narrative threatening them now is that they have been slow to respond to the virus – and testing is a key part of the” slow start “story, especially with the first test fiascos,” said one second Republican close to White. House, who argued that the administration must spend the next four to eight weeks controlling the coronavirus and reopening the economy without incident before voters decide on Trump’s leadership.
As the nation opens up, testing will be a crucial tool in spotting small epidemics before they become large that could shut down parts of the country.
Just over 4 million tests have been done to date, for a population of around 330 million Americans, amid numerous reports that sick Americans cannot get tested quickly, increasing the chances spread of the virus. Estimates vary widely, even among reputable public health experts, on the number of tests to be performed to keep the virus at bay. The White House figures are at the bottom of this spectrum.
But administration officials are expressing public and private confidence that the United States has enough short-term tests and will have enough for the summer, because not all Americans need to be tested.
The challenge could come in the fall, said a senior administration official and a third Republican close to the White House when flu season returns and patients flood doctors’ offices with symptoms that may be Covid-19 or the flu. Doctors and laboratories will then need tests to make a distinction.