A former top White House official blasts 'simply inexcusable' delays for coronavirus tests

  • Mick Mulvaney wrote in a CNBC op-ed published Monday that coronavirus testing lapses are "simply inexcusable at this point in the pandemic."
  • "I know it isn't popular to talk about in some Republican circles, but we still have a testing problem in this country. My son was tested recently; we had to wait 5 to 7 days for results," he said.
  • Trump has repeatedly said the US response to the outbreak would look better if the government hadn't increased virus testing to the extent it had.
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The former White House chief of staff ripped into the federal government's efforts to manage coronavirus testing, saying that it's "simply inexcusable at this point in the pandemic."

In a CNBC op-ed published Monday, Mick Mulvaney delved into a problem still plaguing many cities across the US: difficulties getting tested and the speed of getting the results.

"I know it isn't popular to talk about in some Republican circles, but we still have a testing problem in this country. My son was tested recently; we had to wait 5 to 7 days for results," he wrote in the op-ed. "My daughter wanted to get tested before visiting her grandparents, but was told she didn't qualify. That is simply inexcusable at this point in the pandemic."

Mulvaney said pulling the nation out of recession would require confronting the public health crisis stemming from the coronavirus, calling it the "root cause" of the economic downturn.

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"Put another way, the fact that people aren't going on vacation probably has more to do with fear of getting sick than it does with their economic condition. Giving people a check, or some financial incentive to travel, won't solve their problem," he said. "Make people feel safe to go back on an airplane or cruise ship, and they will of their own accord."

Mulvaney called to direct more federal dollars for research and healthcare systems, and said the economy had displayed initial signs of recovery through robust job growth in the last two months.

In January, while he still served in the administration, Mulvaney at the Conservative Political Action Conference had defended its early handling of the outbreak. He accused the press of trying to use the public health emergency to smear the president, calling it "the hoax of the day."

Mulvaney's latest comments highlight the persistent testing problems still evident in the nation's months-long battle against the coronavirus, even as the number of cases surge — particularly in the South in states like Florida. On Sunday, it logged 15,300 new infections, the biggest spike of cases recorded in the US since the beginning of the outbreak.

The US has conducted 40 million coronavirus tests so far, according to the COVID Tracking Project. President Donald Trump, however, has long blamed the swell of new cases to increased testing.

Last month during his campaign kickoff rally at Tulsa, Oklahoma, Trump said he asked officials to "slow the testing down." White House officials later said the comment was made in jest, but Trump said a few days later: "I don't kid."

While testing capacity has expanded significantly in the last several months, The Washington Post reported that many testing sites are struggling to process results quickly, with some taking up to a week to do so. That sets back efforts to smother the virus as infected people continue spreading it, and causing shortages of crucial equipment.

"It's not shortages of any one thing. It's now spot shortages of all of them," Scott Becker, chief executive of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, told The Post. "Clinical labs need more swabs, chemical reagents, viral transport media, test kits, machines to process the tests, staffing to run the machines."

That's been magnified by logistical hurdles getting the tests back to public health agencies, which hobbles contact tracing efforts, the newspaper reported.

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