Earlier this week, in the White House Rose Garden for a press conference, I watched as President Trump announced his administration’s latest effort to fight the coronavirus pandemic – a plan to distribute to states, native American tribes, and other jurisdictions 150 million rapid coronavirus tests paid for by the federal government. Sending these rapid, point-of-care tests – which yield results within 15 minutes – across the country will help governors reopen their states’ schools, and reopen their states’ economies. That’s a good thing, and the Trump administration should be applauded for this and for its other efforts to get our schools and our nation open again.
In his remarks, President Trump declared that 100 million of the tests would be sent to states and territories, and 50 million would be sent to the most vulnerable communities, with 18 million designated for nursing homes, 15 million for assisted living facilities, and another 10 million for hospice and home health. In addition, 1 million tests would be set aside for historically black colleges and universities and tribal nation colleges.
Adm. Brett Giroir, the Trump administration’s coronavirus testing czar, announced that governors would have “flexibility to use these tests as they deem fit,” and then went on to say, “we strongly encourage governors to utilize them in settings that are uniquely in need of low-tech point of care tests, like opening and keeping open our K-12 schools, supporting critical infrastructure and first responders, responding to outbreaks specifically in certain demographics or locations, and screening or surveillance in congregate settings.”
In making his remarks, the president noted that the United States has now passed a historic milestone – just last week, the 100 millionth coronavirus test was completed, far more than any other nation. In fact, that’s more tests than have been conducted by the entire European Union, and more than all of Latin America combined.
That should not be surprising. From the beginning, the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic has been bold and decisive.
Long before others seemed even to be aware of the threat posed by the coronavirus – and even as his political opponents were trying to convict him in a sham impeachment effort – he ordered early action to block travel from China, where the virus had originated.
The administration built the world’s leading testing system for a virus no one had ever seen before. We’ve conducted more than 111 million tests so far, and – with the spread of the rapid tests – we’ll grow that number even faster.
Once the threat became apparent, President Trump led a massive mobilization of public and private resources. He deployed the Defense Production Act where needed – and ensured our front-line health professionals and first responders had the literally billons of PPE they needed to do their jobs.
Contrary to what critics on the left would have you believe, in undertaking all these actions, he followed the recommendations of his top medical and scientific advisors. As Drs. Fauci and Birx have said, he never wavered on implementing their recommendations.
As for the new rapid tests, and their best use, doctors consistently state that medical testing should not be done for asymptomatic low-risk persons, whether for COVID-19 or any other medical condition. Unlike a math quiz, the accuracy of medical tests are related to the risk that population has. Put another way: if you widespread test a low-risk group, the test is much less accurate than if you widespread test a high-risk group with the same test. That is medical testing 101. Testing all students, and all teachers, and all administrators will result in too many inaccuracies (false positives) to be useful. We should test persons who are showing symptoms or in high-risk categories. And then, if necessary, remove them from the school population and quarantine those who have tested positive, rather than everyone around them – our nation’s medical experience shows that we quarantine sick people, not healthy ones.
The fact of the matter is, while it was impossible in the debacle that passed for Tuesday evening’s debate – with a “moderator” who wasn’t moderate at all, who clearly had it in for Trump, and who was determined to do what he could to help Joe Biden – for President Trump to truly highlight the successes of his administration’s response to the coronavirus, he has a strong record to tout. And he should make a point of doing so in the next debate.
Perhaps most importantly, President Trump has led with optimism from the White House bully pulpit, encouraging our citizens to do their best, to have faith in their fellow citizens and in our nation as a whole. He has stood strong when we needed him to, and has shared that strength with those among us who needed a helping hand. With the deployment of the 150 million new rapid tests, we can go further to reopen our schools, and to reopen our country. That’s a consequence of his strong leadership. We would do well to remember that in this most political of seasons.