CNN anchor Jake Tapper took Assistant Secretary of Health Adm. Brett Giroir to task over the continuing issues with coronavirus testing, asking the coronavirus testing czar if he is “afraid” of bringing these problems up with President Donald Trump.
During a contentious 20-minute interview on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday morning, Tapper repeatedly pressed Giroir on the weeklong delays in coronavirus testing results Americans are experiencing.
“Are you happy where testing is right now?” Tapper asked, prompting Giroir to say he’s “never going to be happy” until they have the pandemic under control.
While acknowledging that testing is still not where it should be, the HHS official went on to tout the progress the administration has made over the past few months, adding that half of the tests conducted have turnaround times of less than 24 hours.
“The delays that most people talk about are at the large commercial labs that perform about half the testing in the country,” he said. “Now, the data are, the average turnaround is 4.27 days.”
The CNN anchor brought up former acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s criticism of the administration’s handling of the pandemic, specifically the poor turnaround times on testing. In an op-ed earlier this month, Mulvaney said the long waits for results were “inexcusable” while citing his own family’s experience.
At the same time, Tapper repeatedly grilled Giroir on the president’s promises when it came to testing and getting the virus, which has now killed nearly 150,000 Americans, under control.
“In March, President Trump said, falsely, anyone who wants a test can get a test,” the veteran anchor pressed. “At what point will it be true, sir, that anyone who wants a test will be able to get one with a quick turnaround so as to be effective. When will that be true?”
Giroir, meanwhile, claimed that it’s “true now” that anyone who “needs a test can get a test,” adding that he’s “highly confident” that turnaround times will decrease this week based on advances they’ve made.
Tapper also pushed the public health official on the administration’s use of the Defense Production Act to ramp up production on masks and ventilators, wondering aloud why the White House wasn’t using it more forcefully on testing. This led to the CNN host asking whether this was due to an unwillingness to upset the president.
“There seems to be this reluctance to push the president to do what he needs to do to get the testing up to speed,” Tapper declared. “I know that he’s under the misguided impression that more testing is bad and makes him look bad, which as you know is completely false.”
“And I’m wondering if you and others are just afraid to do this because you don’t want to upset him, afraid to ask him to do what he needs to do to invoke the DPA to force the federal labs to get up to speed to where we need to be so that we can isolate the virus, as you know,” he added. “Are you afraid to bring this up to President Trump because it will upset him?”
Giroir, for his part, denied that this was the case, claiming that tough issues and problems are brought up openly with Trump and the administration.
“Everyone of the administration understands the importance of testing,” he claimed. “Nobody in the task force is afraid to bring up anything to the vice president or the president.”
“Every time I’ve met with the president, he’s been listening to all the data, he assesses that, he understands it,” Giroir continued. “I meet with the vice president almost every single day. No one is trying to stop testing in this country. No one has ever told me to do that. We want more, we want better, we want quicker.”