On March 13, Donald Trump came to his daily coronavirus rally appearance with company. With a great deal of inappropriate closeness and hand-shaking, Trump brought forth executives from Walgreens, Target, Walmart, CVS, with a promise that, across the nation, the parking lots of these companies would soon be filled with drive-through testing locations to identify and isolate those with COVID-19. Of course, this was the same press conference where Trump announced a website under development by “1700 engineers at Google” which would would quiz Americans on their symptoms and pair them with the appropriate test facility.
The website didn’t exist. And by April 1 the grand total of drive-through testing facilities on the parking lots of these companies came in at five. And those five offered testing only to first responders and healthcare workers, not the general public. But it doesn’t matter now, because Trump is pulling the funding for those sites—and for every other drive-through testing site.
Testing and isolation remains the only way to combat the spread of novel coronavirus until a vaccine becomes available. Everything done through social distancing and other suppression measures is expressly meant to provide time for testing, case tracing, and isolation to break the transmission chain for COVID-19. Otherwise, any relaxation of measures that keep people apart will only generate a fresh spike of cases, presenting the nation with the same dilemma it faced when the epidemic began.
But Trump seems determined to destroy both aspects of the only workable solution. Not only has he been pushing for an end to social distancing guidelines and a re-opening of many businesses, Trump is also pulling federal funding for testing sites.
As NPR reports, federal funding for testing sites will end on Friday. That includes sites in some of the hardest hits areas of the country that are engaged in testing thousands of Americans. Come Friday, federal funds—and federal contracts—will be withdrawn, leaving states and localities without the materials or labs necessary to conduct and process the tests.
States and cities right at the peak of the outbreak are about to lose much of their ability to conduct tests, because federal funds, contracts, and facilities are going away even as the number of cases, and deaths, continues to soar. A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services claimed that “many” of the 41 affected sites would be “transitioning” to state-run sites, but didn’t say how many, or even how that was possible.
Trump’s actions with both the “Google website” and trotting out executives of major retailers was intended to show that the nation was implementing a broad program of testing, with easy availability and coordinated processing. And it worked … as a show. The stock market ate up the visibility of corporate execs at the center of the effort and the idea that the money guys were on the job, turning that day into a stock market gain that Trump bragged about for days to come.
But it never existed. There was no nationwide access to testing for anyone who wanted it. There was no website available to guide people on where they should go. And now Trump isn’t even bothering to pretend.
Posted with permission from Daily Kos