Trump Says There Are Plenty of Coronavirus Tests for Senators Returning to Congress. He’s Wrong.

No, the capacity is not “tremendous.”

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting about the coronavirus response with Gov. Phil Murphy, D-N.J., in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, April 30, 2020, in Washington. Associated Press

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On Saturday morning, President Trump tweeted there would be plenty of coronavirus tests for the US senators set to return to Washington next week. His statements contradict multiple reports that there isn’t enough capacity.

The president tweeted at Dr. Brian P. Monahan, the Capitol’s attending physician. “There is tremendous CoronaVirus testing capacity in Washington for the Senators returning to Capital [sic] Hill on Monday,” Trump tweeted. Trump tagged his new chief of staff, former Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), to “inform Dr. Brian P. Monahan,” the Capitol’s attending physician.

The tweet is a response to multiple reports that Monahan had told top Republican officials he lacked the capacity to proactively test all 100 senators, who are coming to Washington on Monday for the first time since late March. Monahan said his office had enough supplies to test senators and staffers who appear ill—but not the rest. Though Trump said that Monahan could use the “5 minute Abbott Test,” the rapid-results kit used at the White House, Monahan says he doesn’t have the equipment necessary to perform that test. Any tests he conducts won’t have results for two days.

The Capitol’s meager capacity stands in stark contrast to the resources reportedly available at the White House. Both Trump and vice president Mike Pence are tested frequently, as are the aides who work closely with them; tests are also available to anyone who meets with either Trump or Pence.

In his tweet, Trump suggested that the Capitol also had enough tests for the 435 members of the House, “which should return but isn’t because of Crazy [House Speaker] Nancy P[elosi (D-Calif.)],” he wrote. The House had initially been scheduled to return to work on Monday, as well, but a swift bipartisan backlash against traveling as pandemic conditions remain at peak pushed Pelosi to reverse course. Neither the House nor the Senate can vote on legislation remotely.

The country’s limited testing capacity has been the subject of intense criticism. Experts say that widespread testing is necessary to determine a population’s rate of exposure to the virus and whether people can safely resume normal activities. Other countries, such as Singapore and South Korea, have implemented comprehensive testing programs that have allowed them to isolate the sick and reopen their economies.

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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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