With coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths rising in states across the U.S., the Trump administration is reportedly attempting to block the inclusion of billions of dollars in new funding for Covid-19 testing and contact tracing in the next stimulus legislation.
The Washington Post, citing anonymous officials, reported late Saturday that the White House's opposition to funding for coronavirus testing "has angered some GOP senators... and some lawmakers are trying to push back and ensure that the money stays in the bill."
"One person involved in the talks said Senate Republicans were seeking to allocate $25 billion for states to conduct testing and contact tracing, but that certain administration officials want to zero out the testing and tracing money entirely," the Post reported. The relief bill is being written in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) office and formal negotiations are expected to begin next week, when senators return from recess.
According to the Post, the administration is also aiming to "zero out $10 billion in new funding for the CDC in the upcoming bill" while simultaneously trying to include money for a new FBI building.
Bloomberg confirmed the Post's reporting on the administration's opposition to new testing and contact tracing funds, citing an anonymous person familiar with the ongoing and fluid discussions.
"Trump officials want no money for Covid testing and tracing in next coronavirus bill," tweeted economist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. "That should tell you all you need to know."
Testing saves lives by detecting people who are infectious but don't know it, and allowing them to self-isolate.
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I try to avoid hyperbole but I can't think what to call this other than attempted murder. https://t.co/fwaMkxxgUU
— Carl T. Bergstrom (@CT_Bergstrom) July 18, 2020
The White House's attempt to block funds for coronavirus testing and tracing comes weeks after President Donald Trump said during a June 20 campaign rally that he ordered members of his administration to "slow the testing down," falsely blaming the surge in Covid-19 cases on increased testing capacity. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal the previous day, the president said "testing is overrated" because it "makes us look bad."
Public health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have repeatedly stressed that the United States cannot hope to contain the spread of Covid-19 and reopen safely without a nationwide testing and contact tracing system in place.
State and local leaders in recent days have alerted the federal government to severe test shortages and delays as the virus continues to spread, overwhelming already-strained healthcare systems. In an appearance on MSNBC Friday, Judge Barbara Canales of Nueces County, Texas said her county and state are "in desperate need" of additional medical and testing supplies.
"The need is so great," said Canales. "I think we've lost complete control of contact tracing. There's just too many positives a day."