Trump agrees to help New York double coronavirus testing, governor says

(Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to have the federal government help procure chemical reagents and other supplies needed for New York to double its testing capacity for the novel coronavirus, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at the Javits Center, which will be partially converted into a temporary hospital during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., March 27, 2020. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

Cuomo, speaking at a briefing after meeting with Trump in Washington earlier in the day, also said the president indicated he would work to get federal funding to states in the next financial aid legislation to be passed by Congress.

With coronavirus-related hospitalizations trending lower in New York, Cuomo has in the past few days turned his attention to the challenge of widespread testing, which he has said would be critical to getting New Yorkers back to work.

Cuomo said Trump had agreed in their White House meeting to have the federal government take charge of securing materials that the manufacturers who supply New York’s state labs have struggled to procure from overseas.

The governor added that it was up to his state to help the labs boost their testing capacity and to organize the workforce needed to take more samples from the population.

“That is an intelligent division of labor,” Cuomo told the briefing. “Let each level of government do what it does best.”

Cuomo said New York would aim to double the number of people it tests each day - including diagnostic and antibody tests - to 40,000. He characterized it as “an enormous undertaking” that would take several weeks, without being specific on timing.

New York, which is the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, has reported 257,000 cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, and nearly 20,000 deaths, accounting for nearly half of the country’s fatalities.

Along with other governors, Cuomo has called on the federal government to provide direct cash assistance to the states, a request that has so far gone unanswered in the stimulus packages passed by Congress.

The National Governors Association has called on Congress to grant a total of $500 billion to all states to help shore up battered finances.

New York, which is facing a $10 billion to $15 billion budget shortfall, needs the infusion of cash to pay the salaries of teachers, police officers, healthcare workers, Cuomo said.

“You know the state governments are broke,” Cuomo said, adding that Trump had indicated he understood the situation and had said he would “work hard” to get funding for the states in the next round of legislation.

Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Gerry Doyle