Cuomo presses Trump for more federal help in coronavirus testing
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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pressed President Donald Trump Tuesday for more help from the federal government to carry out coronavirus testing during a face-to face-meeting he described as cordial and productive after weeks of sometimes nasty exchanges.
As the virus death toll in the US keeps rising and now stands at nearly 45,000, widespread testing is viewed as key to states being able to lift stay-at-home orders and reopen their shuttered economies.
Cuomo said his state, the hardest hit in America by the pandemic, wants to double its daily testing rate quickly and pressed Trump for the federal government to take control of the supply chain for reagents and other medical equipment to carry out the tests.
The goal is to spare states from bidding against each other on the open market to acquire the material, as they have been doing, or looking abroad to purchase it.
Speaking after his first personal meeting with Trump since the health crisis began, Cuomo acknowledged that the testing itself is the responsibility of individual states.
“But we need help from the federal government to make the supply chain work for the manufacturers, on the reagents, test kits, et cetera, and we said that we’d like to work together in New York state to take our current rate of testing — we do about 20,000 tests a day on average — and double that. Go to 40,000.”
“It’s a very aggressive goal, and we said that we would work together to meet that goal, so it was a very good conversation,” said Cuomo.
Cuomo also said he regretted that a new $480-billion relief package that was passed by the Senate Tuesday leaves out a key Democratic demand: extra funding for state and local governments battling the pandemic.
“We mentioned briefly the state aid. We talked about that, Governor Cuomo and I, and I agree with him on that. I think most Republicans agree with that,” Trump said at his daily briefing on the pandemic.
Trump said earlier in the day he wants such funding included in the next coronavirus rescue package, and congressional leaders said the forthcoming bill was already in the works.
The president also had positive words for Cuomo. “I can say very honestly, with New York state and New York City, they’ve been terrific to work with,” he said.
Trump’s administration is keen to get Americans back to work and has said there are enough tests for each state to move to “phase one” of a gradual reopening, ending some stay-at-home restrictions.
But several US governors have complained about a lack of testing capacity that would allow them to safely begin reopening their states without sparking a surge in infections.
Health experts say a shortage of tests means the United States may be underestimating the extent of the virus outbreak.
New York state is the epicenter of America’s coronavirus epidemic, accounting for around a third of the country’s deaths.
Trump and Cuomo have clashed during the weeks-long crisis, including on equipment and who has the authority to lift confinement measures. (AFP)