President Trump's "political fate now hinges on a simple premise: Everybody who needs a coronavirus test must be able to get a test," Politico's Nancy Cook reports, citing Trump aides and advisers who say they "now view disapproval of his preparedness for the coronavirus pandemic as his biggest political liability heading into the 2020 election." Without enough tests, CEOs and governors have told the White House, they can't get businesses back up and running.
The U.S. has lagged in testing since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created a flawed test in late January, leaving the U.S. largely blind to the virus' spread until the end of February, when other labs were allowed to develop and use their own coronavirus tests. Trump promised March 6 that "anybody that wants a test can get a test," and in the following six weeks he has toggled between insisting the U.S. has enough tests, telling governors testing is their responsibility, and bizarrely blaming his predecessor for leaving him flawed tests for a virus that did not exist until late 2019.
Meanwhile, Trump has no clear point person on coronavirus testing. "At the White House, responsibility for the nationwide testing problems hopscotched from official to official in February and March," The Wall Street Journal reports. Adm. Brett Giroir was named testing czar on March 12, but Jared Kushner is also involved, as are others.
As Trump focuses on the economy, "lower ranking officials are trying to sort out the testing puzzle and individual labs are vying for supplies in a fractured and exhausted marketplace" where each test requires different, often obscure chemicals and supplies from different producers, the Journal reports. "With normal market forces warping under the pressure, some labs stockpiling goods, and others struggling to get them, many see a clearer role for the federal government to resolve the mismatch."
"The administration's response to the coronavirus now overshadows all of the Trump campaign's carefully planned efforts to highlight Trump's record on the economy, judicial appointments, or deregulation," Cook writes at Politico, quoting a Republican close to the White House: "If the testing does not get sorted out as soon as possible, it will be another nail in an almost closed coffin."