New Watchdog Report Shows Trump Administration Still Lacks National Plan on Coronavirus
Washington, D.C. (Sept. 21, 2020) –Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, issued the following statement in response to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the Administration’s failed response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Today’s report from the independent Government Accountability Office confirms that eight months after this deadly virus reached our shores, President Trump is still refusing to implement a coherent national plan to contain the outbreak. Instead, he has downplayed the threat, cast doubt on the science, and failed to lead—resulting in the death of 200,000 Americans. I agree with GAO that we need ‘timely and concerted actions’ to contain this virus, and I urge the Administration to heed GAO’s nonpartisan recommendations and finally show some leadership to protect Americans’ lives.”
Today’s GAO reports includes the following findings, among many others:
- The Administration’s Refusal to Implement a National Plan on Testing Shortages. GAO reports that HHS officials “acknowledge that there are testing supply shortages,” and that FDA, FEMA, and multiple states also identified shortages. These shortages are causing delays in coronavirus testing results, which “have multiple serious consequences” and “can exacerbate outbreaks by allowing the virus to spread undetected.” Yet GAO found the Administration lacks “clearly defined roles and responsibilities” to address these shortages and recommended several changes, including developing a plan for federal action and coordination with stakeholders. In response, the Administration objected to GAO’s recommendations, denied the severity of the problem, and refused to take crucial corrective actions.
- Incoherent Guidance on Reopening Schools. GAO found a “lack of cogent, clear, and consistent federal guidance” on reopening K-12 schools and found that “some federal guidance appears misaligned with CDC’s risk-based approach on school operating status.” In particular, GAO found that statements from the Administration “urging schools to reopen in person” and threatening to withhold funds from schools that did not, “do not appear to align with a risk-based decision-making approach and appear incongruent with the Secretary’s own statements that returning to in-person education is a state and local decision.”
Need for a National Plan on Vaccine Distribution. GAO called for the Administration to develop a “national plan for distributing and administering COVID-19 vaccine” that is “consistent with best practices for project planning and scheduling.” HHS, the lead agency working on developing a vaccine, “neither agreed nor disagreed” with this critical recommendation “but not noted factors that complicate the publication of a plan.”
- Failure to Collect Adequate Data on Racial Disparities. CDC data “suggest a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths exists among racial and ethnic minority groups, but GAO identified gaps in these data.” GAO found serious shortcomings in CDC’s plan to address these gaps and called on the Administration to explain how it will work with stakeholders to gather this data and to determine whether the federal government can mandate data collection from states.
The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis has been calling on the Trump Administration to show stronger federal leadership to defeat the coronavirus for more than four months. The director of GAO, Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, previously testified before the Select Subcommittee on the need to improve the federal government’s coronavirus response on June 26, 2020.