By LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — Under growing pressure to expand a national testing strategy seen as key to reopening the economy, President Donald Trump unveiled a plan on Monday to ramp up the federal government’s help to states — but some public health experts are already saying it falls short.
“Testing is not going to be a problem at all,” Trump said confidently as the government response task force announced the new guidelines, seven weeks after the president said that anyone who needed a test for the coronavirus could get one.
The Trump administration’s new testing plan comes in two documents — a blueprint and overview — and leaves the responsibility on states to develop their own plans and rapid-response programs, describing the federal government as the “supplier of last resort.”
It largely summarizes steps the administration had already taken, retroactively providing an argument for the White House’s decision to push most of the responsibility for scaling up and conducting testing to the states.
Governors and lawmakers, meanwhile, have pressed for a more robust testing plan from the federal government for the last month, insisting that widespread testing be in place before ending the stay-at-home orders that have shut down much of the country. Labs also continue to report problems with the current supply chain.
Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of the hard-hit Washington State said the blueprint “does nothing new” and “will accomplish nothing new” in a statement late Monday, stressing that it lacks the specificity and details, she says, states need.
In another push to return to life before the pandemic, Trump on Monday also said governors should consider opening up their school systems as well as businesses, saying he thought it would be a “good thing.”
It comes as the Trump administration revisits its communications strategy — with the president expected to make fewer, shorter appearances at task force briefings and to focus on the economy as opposed to health aspects of the pandemic.
Here are the latest developments in the government response:
Giroir says testing 2% of population per month “a minimum floor,” though responsibility is still on states
Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir, who oversees testing for the coronavirus task force, addressed criticism that White House guidelines for testing are insufficient to reopen the economy, saying the federal government’s initiative to make sure the states have the ability to test 2% of their populations each month “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,” Giroir said on ABC’s Good Morning America.
Addressing studies that say more testing than that is required, like Harvard University roadmap estimating the U.S. needs to be conducting five million tests per day by early June, Giroir said, “We don’t believe those estimates are really accurate, nor are they reasonable in our society.”
President Trump did not mention monthly percentages of state populations during his news conference Monday, and is it not in the written material issued by the White House. Instead, Trump said Monday said the U.S. would “double” the number of tests it had been doing and repeated the assertion that the states were getting what they needed.
Giroir also responded to former New Jersey governor an ABC News Contributor Chris Christie’s assertion that President Trump needs to use the Defense Production Act to ramp up testing, saying, “For most circumstances the DPA is not necessary because there’s maximum production. All the industries are working together.”
“On the supply chain related to testing, there will be a DPA action today, but it’s not one of the forceful DPA actions but a hand up, an investment in American industry that will greatly expand the testing we need,” he added.
Mnuchin: Treasury and Small Business Administration to audit every Paycheck Protection Program loan over $2M for borrower ‘criminal liability’
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin gave a preview of an upcoming announcement from the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration that they will audit every Paycheck Protection Program loan over $2 million. Mnuchin placed the blame squarely on the borrowers, not the banks, for knowingly taking huge loans, even though they had other cash assets on hand.
“It’s the borrowers who have criminal liability if they made this certification and it’s not true, and as I said, we’re going to do a full audit of every loan over $2 million. This was a program designed for small businesses, it was not a program that was designed for public company that had liquidity,” Mnuchin told CNBC Tuesday morning.
According to Treasury rules, larger companies that the program was not designed for have two weeks to return their loans or they will face financial liability.
“I’m going to be putting out an announcement this morning that for any loan over $2 million the SBA will be doing a full review of that loan before there is loan forgiveness so we’ll make sure that the intent for taxpayers is fulfilled,” Mnuchin added.
He also called out the Los Angeles Lakers for taking a loan but said he was glad they returned it.
“I never thought in a million years the Los Angeles Lakers would have taken a $4.6 million loan that’s outrageous. I’m glad they returned it or they would have had liability.”
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