President Donald Trump Says Maryland’s Governor “Didn’t Understand” Testing Capacity When He Bought 500,000 of Them

Alex Brandon/AP

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On Monday, President Donald Trump again lauded the nation’s capacity for coronavirus testing and said states simply needed to take advantage of that capacity. In doing so, he took a swipe at the governors of Maryland and Illinois, who have been critical of the federal government’s approach to testing. Just hours before the president’s press conference, the Associated Press reported that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan had purchased 500,000 tests from South Korea to combat shortages in the state. 

“Hundreds and hundreds of labs are ready, willing, and able. Some of the governors, as an example, the governor of Maryland didn’t understand too much about what was going on,” Trump told reporters. “So now he’ll be able to do that. It’s pretty simple. They have tremendous capacity, and we hope to be able to help him out.” Later in the briefing, Trump added: “The governor of Maryland could have called Mike Pence and saved a lot of money. He didn’t need to go to South Korea. I think he needed to get a little bit of knowledge.”

Despite praising states’ COVID-19 testing capacity, the fact is that governors have repeatedly said the opposite: Democratic and Republican governors alike have rejected the administration’s optimistic take and have demanded more tests before they decide to re-open their economies. Researchers have argued that the number of tests per day, currently at 150,000, needs to triple before cities could begin easing shelter-in-place policies. 

On Sunday, after Pence said on NBC’s Meet the Press that “there is a sufficient capacity of testing across the country today for any state in America” to begin lifting social distancing restrictions, Hogan, who serves as chairman of the National Governors Association, pushed back on the administration’s criticism that governors hadn’t taken advantage of testing. Hogan told CNN’s State of the Union: “To try to push this off, 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.” Hogan went on

The administration, I think, is trying to ramp up testing, and trying — they are doing some things with respect to private labs.

But to try to push this off 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. Every governor in America has been pushing and fighting and clawing to get more tests, not only from the federal government, but from every private lab in America and from all across the world. And we continue to do so.

Look, we have increased our testing in Maryland by 5,000 percent over the past month, but it’s nowhere near where it needs to be. And, as Governor Northam said a moment ago, there are things like shortages on swabs that we don’t have anywhere in America that you can’t do the test without, on reagents, which is a part of the test.

So, look, I think they have made some strides at the federal level. I think states are all working hard on their own to find their own testing. Lab capacity has been increasing.

But it’s not accurate to say there’s plenty of testing out there, and the governors should just get it done. That’s just not being straightforward.

 

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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