Brooklyn, N.Y. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today on a press call with Senate Democratic Leaders, discussed the Trump administration’s failure to rapidly ramp up testing capacity for COVID-19 and urged the administration to execute a comprehensive national testing plan. Below is a transcript of Leader Schumer’s opening remarks:
Sen. Schumer: So, let me begin by saying I hope you and your loved ones are healthy during this very difficult time for all of us. It's just utterly mindboggling that at this critical time when the administration’s testing regime is at best incomplete and at worst in shambles, that the president is choosing to focus his time and energy on a vendetta against the W.H.O. That is not leadership, and it's not going to help improve the situation—either health-wise or economically—for the American people.
As you all know, here in New York, the coronavirus continues to take a terrible toll. My state and my hometown are suffering enormous and heartbreaking losses of life every day. The impact is overwhelming. You don't meet a person who doesn't know someone, a friend, a family member who has passed away. And at the same time, we are encouraged that the rate of hospitalizations is moving in the right direction. So while we are grieving at the loss of so much human life, there is beginning to be a glimmer of hope.
Now, everyone on the frontlines has done a heroic job responding to the health crisis and so many others continue to put their lives on the line doing essential jobs to keep our city and our country operating. They are truly the heroes of this crisis and we are grateful to them.
Now, we’re not out of the woods yet. Our focus continues to be on addressing the urgent crises in our health care system and our economy. But we also have to look ahead and prepare for the future when things start to return to a bit of normal.
As my colleagues and I have been saying for months, the only way we can get our economy back up and running is by addressing the health crisis. The two issues cannot be separated. Until a vaccine or an effective therapeutic is developed and widely available, the best way we can assess the potential readiness of the country to restart major economic activity is through comprehensive, widespread, sophisticated testing.
On March 6th, more than a month ago, President Trump proudly said, “Anybody that needs a test gets a test.” He was very, very wrong. A month later, our testing capability is still woefully inadequate for the crisis, much less to reopen our economy. We have testing shortages in communities in New York and across the country. There is a shortage of essential components for testing. And too often, this is even more severe in poor communities, and in Black and Brown communities, as well.
We have to ramp up testing it can be done on a far broader scale. We need to get the results back quickly. That’s going to take a national, major effort. It’s going to require an organized, coordinated, focused, and effective plan—not exactly the Trump administration’s strong suits.
So today, Senate Democrats are outlining the challenges to this issue of testing, as well as our roadmap for a solution. Through a report and white paper, which Senators Stabenow and Murray will go into in further detail on shortly, Senate Democrats are doing two things:
First, we are presenting an accurate picture of the challenges our country is facing with testing, not issuing false and misleading claims like President Trump. This isn’t China—this is the United States of America. We need our government to be truthful.
And second, we are laying out our $30 billion plan for a comprehensive national testing strategy and major new investment that includes bolstering the supply and manufacturing chain, significantly expanding free testing for all, and expanding reporting and contact tracing, also vital.
We have put out the DPCC report by Senator Debbie Stabenow, a white paper which Senator Patty Murray led, and a one page fact sheet.
We need to have testing kits widely available across America so that we can beat this pandemic and help those affected. We need to track the results in real-time so we can quickly spot flare-ups. We need a dedicated, domestic supply chain, to produce millions of effective and accurate tests to ensure they are readily available in every community, large and small.
And if the president tries to ham-handedly bully or dupe states into reopening portions of the country and send people back to work prematurely or without the appropriate testing in place, he could risk undoing all the progress we’ve made through social distancing toward fighting this pandemic.
If this is mishandled, this disease could re-surge and become an even greater challenge. So we can’t afford to wait—we need to study and adapt to the coronavirus right now.
Testing is the best tool we have to fight the virus today, to know who is infected and who is not, and when to open our economy. It is critically important to our health and the well-being of every person in our country to get the restart done right, and testing is the foundation. We will need bipartisan support in Congress for this effort, and just an importantly, we will need the president and the Trump administration to step up and get the job done.