Trump: U.S. states, not federal government, must improve testing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump, whose administration has faced criticism over a shortfall in coronavirus testing capacity, said on Friday that individual states were responsible for developing testing capabilities.

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 17, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis

“It’s going to be up to the states to use that capability,” Trump told reporters at a White House briefing.

“The states have local points where they can go and the governor can call the mayors and the mayors can call representatives and everything is perfect and that’s the way it should work and always should work,” Trump said.

Trump has repeatedly said that states - not the federal government - need to step up testing against the novel coronavirus, as the nation battles an outbreak that has sickened nearly 700,000 people and killed more than 35,000 people in the United States alone.

The virus has also paralyzed the U.S. economy, shuttering businesses and leaving 22 million Americans seeking unemployment benefits.

As a result, the president, who had touted the strength of the U.S. economy as central to his Nov. 3 re-election bid, has been eager to reopen the country as soon as possible.

On Thursday, Trump unveiled federal guidelines for a three-stage process under which states could lift restrictions on commerce and public life as the pandemic retreated.

Public health experts and some state governors have said businesses could only safely restart with a comprehensive testing program.

Trump dismissed the response to his plan as political posturing.

“Following the announcement of our reopening guidelines, there have been some very partisan voices in the media and in politics that have spread false and misleading information about our testing capacity,” Trump said.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said later at the briefing that states could double daily testing by “activating all of the labs” and that states had enough tests to launch phase one of the economic re-opening plan if they chose to do so.

Reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Daniel Wallis