Adm. Brett Giroir, the official in charge of the White House’s coronavirus testing efforts, responded to backlash over the federal government’s new guidelines for states to ramp up testing and expand rapid response programs.
The U.S. has completed 5.4 million tests for COVID-19 so far, but researchers at Harvard University said that number will have to rise dramatically — up to 20 million a day — before the country can safely reopen its economy. Under the plan unveiled by President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday, the federal government would send each state enough tests to screen at least 2% of their residents per month, which critics say is too low.
A copy of the plan’s blueprint document, which ABC News has obtained and reviewed, says that “testing plans and rapid response programs will be federally supported, state managed and locally executed.” A number of governors have criticized the approach, saying only the federal government has the ability to accelerate testing capacity and coordinate a national testing strategy.
“Our team has contacted and are working with every single state, D.C., Puerto Rico to define really the specifics of what that state needs according to their state reopening plan,” Giroir, who is the assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview Tuesday on “Good Morning America.”
“The 2% really is sort of a minimum floor. There are many states that want to do 4%, 6%, 8% every month. We have the supply chains figured out,” he added. “So we really are much more sophisticated. The overall strategy is a strategy; it’s not a state-by-state plan — that’s what we’re doing individually with the states.”
Giroir, who is also a medical doctor, said using the Defense Production Act (DPA) is “not necessary” for most circumstances “because there is maximum production, all the industry are working together.” The 1950 wartime law requires private companies to prioritize any product orders from the federal government over others.
“On the supply chain related to testing, there will be a DPA action today but it’s not one of the forceful DPA actions,” he said. “It’s a hand-up, it’s an investment in American industry that will greatly expand the testing we need, some of the testing supplies, so that particularly by fall when we may have COVID circulating with influenza and need drastically more tests than we have now, we’ll have the supplies that we need.”
“The DPA has been used selectively when it’s necessary,” he added. “But in most regards, certainly regarding testing it’s really unnecessary.”