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US governors clash with Trump over virus testing

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Via Financial Times

Democratic and Republican governors have rejected suggestions from Donald Trump that US states have sufficient capacity to test people for coronavirus as a precursor to reopening their economies.

Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland who chairs the National Governors Association, on Sunday told CNN that the country’s governors believed the lack of testing remained “the number one problem in America”.

Mr Hogan acknowledged that the Trump administration was “trying to ramp up testing” and was working with private laboratories to boost capacity across the US. But he criticised the president for trying to shift blame on to the governors.

“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 . . . has been pushing and fighting . . . to get more tests, not only from the federal government but from every private lab in America and from all across the world.”

After earlier this week releasing a three-stage road map for relaxing social distancing and easing lockdowns, Mr Trump on Saturday said that testing capacity across the US was “fully sufficient to begin opening up the economy”.

Mr Trump rejected criticisms about a lack of testing, saying that Democrats were complaining to score political points in the same way governors previously voiced concern about the lack of ventilators needed to keep patients alive.

“Just like I was right on Ventilators . . . I am right on testing,” Mr Trump tweeted on Sunday. “Governors must be able to step up and get the job done. We will be with you ALL THE WAY!”

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Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic governor of New York, has called for the federal government to oversee the testing supply chain to make sure labs can secure the chemical and medical materials needed to conduct tests.

 “We asked the top 50 labs in [New York state] what they would need to double their testing. They all said the same thing: they need more chemical reagents,” Mr Cuomo tweeted.

Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic governor of Michigan, said her state could also double or triple testing with more supplies. “The reagents and the swabs are absolutely essential,” she said. “While our capabilities are there, these important supplies are not.”

While Mr Trump says Democrats are trying to turn testing into a political issue, Republicans have raised similar concerns. Mike DeWine, Ohio’s Republican governor, told NBC News that his state could boost testing capability if the federal government focused on tests that use different chemical “reagents” to the ones that are in short supply.

“I could probably double, maybe even triple, testing in Ohio virtually overnight if the [Food and Drug Administration] would prioritise companies that are putting a slightly different formula together for the extraction reagent kit,” Mr DeWine said. “We have a shortage, worldwide shortage, of some of the materials that go into this.”

Mr Hogan added that there was also a shortage of the swabs used to conduct tests. Ralph Northam, Virginia’s Democratic governor, told CNN that the comments from Mr Trump about sufficient testing were “delusional”.

Mr Trump has also come under fire from Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, who said the president needed to do a better job leading the national response. 

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“Donald Trump may not like it, but it’s his responsibility to step up and lead our nation’s testing strategy,” Mr Biden tweeted. “Mass testing is key to reopening the economy and returning to some semblance of normalcy.”

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