As the U.S. moves past 41,000 coronavirus deaths, our team in Washington, D.C. is examining the issues that likely won’t be featured tonight during primetime cable news — including how the U.S. Surgeon General feels about states reopening in phases. You can watch their original reporting in the video above.
A chorus of governors from both parties pushed back hard Monday after President Donald Trump accused Democrats of playing “a very dangerous political game” by insisting there is a shortage of tests for coronavirus. The governors countered that the White House must do more to help states do the testing that’s needed before they can ease up on stay-at-home orders.
Kansas’s Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said the current federal effort “really is not good enough if we’re going to be able to start to open our economy. We cannot do that safely without the tests in place.”
The plea for stepped-up coordination came on the latest day when the Trump administration provided discordant messaging: Trump blasted state leaders on Twitter for being too dependent on federal government and said later that some governors just didn’t understand what they had, while Vice President Mike Pence assured governors the government was working around-the-clock to help them ramp up testing.
Pence sought to soften the administration’s message amid growing clamor from both parties for a national testing strategy to help secure testing swabs, chemical reagents and other crucial supplies.
“When it comes to testing, we’re here to help,” Pence told governors during a videoconference from the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Associated Press obtained audio of the call.
Pence said the administration sent an email to officials on Monday detailing current testing capacity by state. But Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said much of the unused lab machinery listed for his state was in federal labs that the state does not have access to. Pence agreed to open up federal labs to help states. Hogan announced Monday the state received 500,000 tests from South Korea—a “game-changing” deal that was negotiated by his wife, Yumi Hogan, who grew up outside Seoul.
“They want the states to take the lead, and we have to go out and do it ourselves, and so that’s exactly what we did,” Hogan said.
Trump didn’t take that lying down. In his daily briefing, he said that some governors have “more capacity than they understand.” He named Hogan and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, among leaders he said don’t grasp the extent of available testing already in their states.
“The governor of Maryland could have called Mike Pence, could have saved a lot of money,” Trump said. “I don’t think he needed to go to South Korea. He needed to get a little knowledge–would have been helpful.”
In Kansas, which has about half the national testing rate, Gov. Kelly said part of the problem has been caused by how FEMA has gone about distributing testing material and other supplies.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)