March 17, 2020

Warren, Colleagues Demand Answers from Trump Administration on Shortage of COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing Kits

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

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and 15 of her Senate colleagues sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and Assistant Secretary of Health Brett Giroir, coordinator for diagnostic testing efforts, requesting information on the Trump Administration's failure to ensure that diagnostic tests are available for the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Joining Senator Warren in sending the letter are Senate HELP Committee members Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Senators 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.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

"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. "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. However, since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported in the United States in January, the Trump Administration's disjointed effort to coordinate the federal government response to the outbreak has placed a significant burden on hospitals and health care providers who have not been able to adequately access diagnostic tests. 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 CDC's 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 President Trump and other key officials about the country's diagnostic capacities-spreading confusing and untrue information about the availability of tests for the general public.

"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.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Senator Warren has worked to ensure that the Trump Administration is effectively responding to the outbreak and that the U.S. has the resources needed to address this threat. Her ongoing efforts include urging VP Pence to take swift, specific action to support Massachusetts and other states as they combat the spread of COVID-19; introducing legislation that would generate an estimated $10 billion in funding for coronavirus efforts by shifting funding from President Trump's border wall; and asking the CEOs of the U.S.-based "Too Big to Fail" banks how they are preparing to mitigate the economic risks of the outbreak of COVID-19.

Senator Warren also published an op-ed on in which she called for a $750 billion economic stimulus package that would focus on recovery from the grassroots up, not Wall Street down. Such a package would avoid the mistakes of the 2008 bailout and provide direct help to families harmed by the coronavirus outbreak, including universal paid leave, increasing Social Security benefits by $200 a month, broad cancellation of student loan debt, and protecting and expanding housing.