The president said on a conference call that he had not “heard about testing in weeks.”
By Jonathan Martin, Maggie Haberman and Mike Baker
WASHINGTON — President Trump told governors on a conference call on Monday that he had not “heard about testing in weeks,” suggesting that a chronic lack of kits to screen people for the coronavirus was no longer a problem.
But governors painted a different picture on the ground.
Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, a Democrat, said that officials in his state were trying to do “contact tracing” — tracking down people who have come into contact with those who have tested positive — but that they were struggling because “we don’t have adequate tests,” according to an audio recording of the conversation obtained by The New York Times.
“Literally we are one day away, if we don’t get test kits from the C.D.C., that we wouldn’t be able to do testing in Montana,” Mr. Bullock said.
The midday call was one of a handful that Mr. Trump has held with governors, some of whom have sparred with the president over the federal government’s response to the spread of the coronavirus. Others have calculated that it will be easier to get the needs of their states fulfilled by praising Mr. Trump, who seeks credit and affirmation in most interactions.
On the Monday call, Mr. Bullock — whose state is heavily rural — tried to stress the disparity Montana faces in trying to mitigate the spread of the virus because of the lack of testing.
Listen to the Call: Bullock and Trump Discuss Testing
Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana discussed the difficulty of getting access to coronavirus tests on a conference call with President Trump and other governors.
“Literally, we are one day away if we don’t get test kits from the C.D.C. Then we wouldn’t be able to be tested in Montana. We have gone, time and time again, to the private side of this. The private market, in where the private market is telling us that it’s a national resource that are then taking our orders apart. Basically, we’re getting our orders canceled. And that’s for PPE. That’s for testing supplies. That’s for testing equipment. So, while we’re trying to do all the contact tracing, we don’t have adequate tests to necessarily do it. We don’t have the [inaudible] along the way, and we’re not finding markets to be able to do that. Along the way are private suppliers. So we do have to rely on a national chain of distribution or we’re not going to get it. But we are doing our best to try to do exactly that. Like, Gallatin County would be an example where we have almost half of our overall state’s — those are the positives. We’re trying to shift the supply to really isolate that and do the contact tracing, but we just don’t have enough supplies to even do the testing.” “Right. Tony, uh, you can answer it if you want, but I haven’t heard about testing in weeks. We’ve tested more now than any nation in the world. We’ve got these great tests, and we’ve come up with another one tomorrow where, you know, it’s almost instantaneous testing. But I haven’t heard about testing being a problem.”
Mr. Trump initially said that Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, could respond to the question, but then quickly offered a rejoinder. “I haven’t heard about testing in weeks,” the president said. “We’ve tested more now than any nation in the world. We’ve got these great tests and we’re coming out with a faster one this week.” Reiterating his point, Mr. Trump added, “I haven’t heard about testing being a problem.”
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