(The Center Square) – President Donald Trump on Monday asserted that U.S. states currently have enough testing capacity to enact Phase 1 of his coronavirus recovery plan once they reach the stage where they can begin to implement it.
Speaking from the White House press room, the president said the 50 governors had been provided with information about facilities within their own states immediately before a conference call with Vice President Mike Pence on Monday.
“We provided each governor with a list of the names, addresses and phone numbers of the labs where they can find additional testing capacity within their states,” Trump said. “Hundreds and hundreds of labs are ready, willing and able. Some of the governors, like, as an example, the governor from Maryland, [Republican Larry Hogan], didn’t really understand the list, he didn’t understand too much about what was going on. Now I think he’ll be able to do that. It’s pretty simple.”
The president said that the list, which included about 5,000 laboratories from across the nation, caught some governors by surprise.
“Some states have far more capacity than they actually understand, and it is a complex subject,” he said. “Some of the governors didn’t understand it, the governor, as an example, (Democrat J.B.) Pritzker from Illinois, did not understand his capacity.”
Later, Trump suggested that the demand for testing from some corners might be more about creating criticism of his administration and influencing the November presidential election rather than meeting actual need.
“Not everybody believes we should do so much testing, you don’t need so much,” he said. “We’re talking about maximum, maximum. The reason that the Democrats, and some others may be because they don’t know, they want maximum because they want to be able to criticize, because it’s almost impossible to get to the maximum number and yet we’ve been able to do it already.”
The president once again predicted imminent movement on a bill to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program, which created a fund to support small businesses, that has since been drained. He said there was a chance the Senate might be able to hold a vote on the bill Tuesday.
He also said his administration was requesting $75 billion be approved by Congress to support hospitals and health care workers struggling under the burden of addressing the hundreds of thousands of coronavirus cases that have been diagnosed across the country.
Also announced was a plan to take advantage of record oil prices to replenish the nation’s strategic oil reserve.
“Based on the record low price of oil that you’ve been seeing … we’re filling up our national petroleum reserves … the strategic reserves, and we’re looking to put as much as 75 million barrels into the reserves themselves,” he said. “That would top it out, that would be the first time in a long time it’s been topped out. We’d get it for the right price.”
He later clarified that the purchase would require congressional approval.
Trump quoted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who earlier in the day had stated the president was correct in putting the states in charge of testing.
“They’re getting it together in New York, a lot of good things are happening in New York, and I think the governor is going to come to see us tomorrow,” the president said. “He’s coming to the Oval Office tomorrow afternoon, Andrew’s going to be coming in with some of his people.”
As of Monday evening, there have been about 800,000 diagnosed cases of coronavirus infection in the United States and more than 42,000 deaths from COVID-19.
Dave Lemery is a regional editor for The Center Square