June 23, 2020

Luján Calls Out Trump Administration for Failed COVID-19 Response

Nambé, N.M.  During a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), the U.S. House Assistant Speaker, questioned top public health officials about the Trump administration’s failure to bolster COVID-19 testing or develop a national testing strategy to address the pandemic. 

“The Trump administration failed to bring COVID-19 testing to scale in the early months of the pandemic. Even now, five months later, testing capacity is nowhere near where America needs it to be. On January 31, Secretary Azar declared COVID-19 a public health emergency. Five weeks later, on March 6, President Trump infamously declared that, ‘Anybody that needs a test can have a test. They’re all set; they have them out there.’ Yet, on that same day, fewer than 3,300 tests were completed in the United States. On April 28, President Trump said testing in the United States would surpass five million per day. Admiral Giroir, yes or no, are we currently in the United States conducting five million tests per day?” Luján asked the Trump administration’s testing czar.

After Giroir confirmed that the United States is only conducting 500,000 tests per day, Congressman Lujan noted that “nearly every leading public health expert agrees that the centerpiece of reopening the country is a robust testing, tracing, and isolation strategy” and that current testing has fallen short of the president’s promise.

During the hearing, Congressman Luján also pointed to the federal government’s failure to share crucial health data with Tribal health authorities and secured a commitment from CDC Director Robert Redfield to work with Tribal Epidemiology Centers to get access to the data to which they are entitled 

“Dr. Redfield, last week your staff indicated—in writing— that the data-sharing issues reported in Politico were merely a ‘miscommunication” with a single Tribal Epidemiology Center. But that isn’t true. My office has confirmed that this problem goes beyond a single Center, and the Centers report that they have encountered problems obtaining other data sets from CDC, beyond COVID-19,” said Luján.  

Video of the hearing is available here.

Last week in a hearing on racial and ethnic health disparities, Congressman Luján condemned the mistreatment of Tribal communities in the national COVID-19 response and the federal government’s withholding of life-saving information from Tribal health authorities. Following Congressman Luján’s questioning, the CDC confirmed this week that the data-sharing issue extends beyond any single Tribal Epidemiology Center and committed to holding a call with all 12 TECs later this month.

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Adán Serna (202) 225-6190