HHS Secretary puts media-driven controversy over test kits to rest, blasts press for false premise

Screengrab CSPAN

Joined by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Surgeon General Jerome Adams and Larry Kudlow, Director of the National Economic Council, Vice President Mike Pence held another press briefing Tuesday at the White House.

Eager to put a negative spin on the coronavirus outbreak in the quest to turn the crisis into President Trump’s “Katrina,” the media maintained a focus on the availability of coronavirus test kits.

It was here that Secretary Azar put the matter to rest in a convincing manner.

NBC White House correspondent Geoff Bennett suggested it was “close to impossible for average Americans to get tests without being hospitalized,” asking when COVID-19 test kits would be “available at doctor’s offices and urgent care clinics?”

 

Pence responded to say that “every state lab in America can do coronavirus tests” and that the availability of tests will “dramatically rise” in the days to come, before turning the question over to Azar.

“By the end of this weekend we had 1.1 million test kits that were actually shipped. We have another one million that are either in transit or waiting for orders. So we actually have a surplus capacity already that have been produced,” the secretary said.

“The tests are out there,” he would add. “The tests are in every public health lab in the country. They’re in hospitals. They’re in labs.”

Azar then took issue with how the question was presented.

“But I think there is a false premise in your question,” he told Bennett. “Which is a notion that just because I as a person say, “Oh, I’d like to be tested for the novel coronavirus.” I should be walking into any minute clinic or any other facility and just walk in and saying; Give me my test.’ That’s not how diagnostic testing works in the United States or frankly almost any place in the world.”

Bennett interjected to note that Trump had said over the weekend that anybody that needs a test could get a test — this betraying the likely objective at play, attempting to drive a wedge between the president and members of the coronavirus task force.

(The New York Times reported Saturday that “White House officials” have privately cast Azar as “alarmist.”)

Azar countered that “we’ve always been clear” about the parameters of the test and not restricting who can get tested.

“If their doctor or public health physician believes they should be tested it needs to always be clinically indicated to receive a test,” he said. “So it’s a false premise.”

“Go to your doctor if you… First, actually, don’t go to your doctor. Call your doctor’s office if you believe you may have the novel coronavirus,” Azar said of those who may feel the need to be tested. “Call the clinic, call the hospital. Call the doctor’s office so that you don’t just walk right in. Follow their infection control procedures for doing that. And then, they will decide working with you, whether a test is appropriate to be done.”

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Tom Tillison

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