March 17, 2020

Wyden Demands Answers from Trump Administration on Shortage of COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing Kits

Failure to Ensure Availability of Kits and Misleading Information Have Confused and Delayed Response to Coronavirus Pandemic, Placing Millions at Risk

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today, along with 15 of his colleagues, sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and federal health officials requesting information on the Trump administration's failure to ensure that diagnostic tests are available for the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

"This failure has resulted in a significant delay in detecting and responding to the first cases of COVID-19 in the United States, dramatically increasing the scope of the epidemic, and placing millions at risk," the senators wrote in their letter to Pence, head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and Assistant Secretary of Health Brett Giroir, coordinator for diagnostic testing efforts. "These problems...have been exacerbated by the numerous false statements by Vice President Pence, by other members of the Task Force, and by President Trump about the status of testing.”

The ability to accurately and swiftly test for COVID-19 is critical to making public health decisions-like social distancing, quarantining and contact tracing-which can slow the exponential growth of the virus. According to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, our testing system is "failing" and "is not really geared to what we need right now."

In their letter, the senators laid out a series of missteps by the Trump administration related to the rollout of diagnostic tests, such as delays in the development of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) own diagnostic test; distribution to states and local labs of hundreds of faulty test kits that delivered inconclusive results; and an ongoing series of false statements from Donald Trump and other key officials about the country's diagnostic capacities.

"The Administration's continued failure to ensure a sufficient number of diagnostic testing kits for COVID-19 are available, and its inability to provide clear and honest answers about this problem in the midst of this public health emergency, is unacceptable. The American public deserves answers," the senators continued.

To address their concerns, the senators asked Vice President Pence and Assistant Secretary Giroir to answer a series of questions about the nation's testing capacity, the Trump administration's inability to provide clear information and purported manufacturing shortages facing labs across the country.

Joining Wyden in sending the letter are U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., Robert P. Casey, Jr., D-Pa., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Cory A. Booker, D-N.J., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

A copy of the letter is available here.