As Coronavirus Infections Surge, Select Subcommittee Seeks Information on Possible White House Efforts to Suppress Testing
Washington, D.C. (June 22, 2020)—Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, and Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert Redfield seeking documents about possible efforts by the White House to limit coronavirus testing in the United States. The letter also seeks documents and information about the Administration’s plans to combat the rising number of coronavirus infections, which have already killed more people in the United States than in any other nation on Earth.
The Chairman wrote, “This weekend, President Trump said he told people to ‘slow the testing down’ because he was unhappy with how many cases were being identified, and Vice President Pence wrote last week that fears of a second wave are ‘overblown.’ No American should go untested because the President fears an accurate count of infections, and there is nothing ‘overblown’ about saving American lives.”
“I am concerned that efforts to minimize the problem could waste precious time needed to protect Americans. I urge the Administration to act quickly to ensure our communities have the testing, tracing, targeted containment, and other public health measures they need to prevent more unnecessary deaths.”
This letter follows multiple reports showing that, following the Administration’s efforts to encourage states to quickly reopen last month, 23 states saw a rise in new infections, with some of the nation’s most populous states—such as Florida and Texas—reporting record increases. Hospital admissions have increased in at least 15 states, including Arizona, Florida, Texas, and Utah.
Despite clear evidence that the virus is continuing to spread, the President, Vice President, and other senior officials have asserted that current levels of testing are sufficient—and have even blamed testing for the spike in cases.
Public health experts disagree. Last month, Dr. Ashish Jha of the Harvard Global Health Institute informed the Select Subcommittee at a Member briefing that a plan developed by his institute shows the United States needs to conduct at least 900,000 tests per day—approximately 6.3 million per week—to reopen the economy safely. Plans developed by the Rockefeller Foundation and Harvard University estimate that the country will need the capacity to conduct between four and five million tests per day to protect all residents while resuming economic activity.
Experts have also called for robust contact tracing and targeted containment, but the Administration does not appear to have developed a national strategy to ensure that states deploy these measures or have the resources to do so. As a result, at least 37 states do not have enough contract tracers to contain outbreaks.
Last week, the CDC announced that it predicts a loss of 130,000 American lives by the Fourth of July. A forecast released by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation on June 11 predicts approximately 170,000 deaths in the United States from the coronavirus by October 1, with a possible range of between 133,000 and 290,000.
“Given that the views of this crisis expressed by senior Administration officials seem to differ greatly from those of public health experts—including on the severity of the problem and the importance of testing, tracing, and targeted containment—the Select Subcommittee is seeking information on the Administration’s projections and how it is determining what amount of testing, contact tracing, targeted containment, and other public health measures are needed.”
Click here to read today’s letter to the Vice President, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.