On Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci — the country’s leading expert on infectious diseases, and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force — told TIME he doubts that the United States currently has the capacity to do the coronavirus testing required to reopen the country. Later on Thursday, during the daily coronavirus task force briefing, President Donald Trump disagreed with Fauci’s assessment, CNN reported. Trump reiterated his claim that the US is on track with coronavirus testing.
Fauci said in the TIME interview, available via YouTube, that the current number of tests being performed was nowhere near enough.
“We absolutely need to significantly ramp up, not only the number of tests but the capacity to actually perform them… you don’t have a situation where you have a test, but it can’t be done because there’s not a swab, or not an extraction media or not the right vial — all of those things got to be in place. I am not overly confident right now at all, that we have what it takes to do that.”
According to CNN, several studies have shown that in order to manage the spread of coronavirus enough to reopen the country, the United States will need to have the capacity to perform millions of tests every week. Public health officials have said that it will be crucial to know who has coronavirus — and whom an infected individual may have come in contact with — before social distancing measures can be relaxed and businesses can reopen. The Hill reported that the US is currently performing around 1 million tests per week. Citing the Covid Tracking Project — an effort led by The Atlantic staff writer Alexis Madrigal — The Hill claims that the number of tests being conducted has not significantly increased for weeks.
Fauci’s comments in the TIME interview indicate his doubts that the country’s testing capacity will reach his preferred level in the near future. However, Fauci did say that the country’s ability, and capacity, to perform coronavirus tests is increasing.
“We’re doing better and I think we’re going to get there, but we’re not there yet.”
Trump commented on Fauci’s statements during the coronavirus task force briefing on Thursday afternoon.
“I don’t agree with him on that, no, I think we’re doing a great job on testing.”
CNN reported that though Trump has frequently boasted about how many tests the US has performed — around 4 million — the nation is not performing as many tests per capita as other countries, like Italy.
Though Fauci and Trump disagree about the state of testing efforts, Fauci stated in the TIME interview that he was confident the administration’s approach to the pandemic would remain rooted in science.