Trump And Governors Clash On Testing; White House Briefing April 20, 2020

By Selena Simmons-Duffin and Alana Wise

President Trump will address the nation on the coronavirus pandemic on Monday, as state leaders and health experts say that testing limitations continue to slow the country's ability to safely re-open the economy.

The White House last week issued guidelines on a three-tiered approach for states to begin easing coronavirus restrictions. But many state officials have said that they do not yet have the capacity to aggressively test for new COVID-19 cases.

Trump has been resistant to states' demands for additional testing help, tweeting on Monday: "States, not the Federal Government, should be doing the Testing - But we will work with the Governors and get it done."

The Monday coronavirus task force briefing comes after a series of tense disagreements between Trump and a number of Democratic governors last week.

Almost immediately after the administration's three-phase plan to ease coronavirus restrictions was released, several governors openly disputed the president's projected timeline on their ability to safely begin lifting stay-at-home orders.

On Friday, Trump engaged in a heated back-and-forth with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and the week was capped off with Trump later that day openly expressing support for far-right protesters disobeying state-issued stay-at-home orders.

The administration hopes that this week will bring some bipartisan agreement on additional coronavirus relief funding, possibly including: $300 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, $75 billion in emergency funding for hospitals, $50 billion for small-business disaster loans and $25 billion for testing.

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Data on Race and COVID-19 Still Weeks Away

The Trump administration is having to backtrack on when it can provide data on the race of COVID-19 patients.

Right now, there's no clear national picture of how the coronavirus is affecting people of different races. Some states are releasing this information, and there's some data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What little data there are is concerning. For one, African Americans represent a third of all deaths from COVID-19, even though they represent only 13% of the national population.

A fuller national picture of how COVID-19 is affecting people of different races was promised by the Trump administration at the press briefing of the White House Coronavirus Task Force on April 7, specifically from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS.

THE PRESIDENT:  Why is it that the African American community is so much, you know, numerous times more than everybody else?  And we want to find the reason to it.  And Dr. [Anthony] Fauci [of the National Institutes of Health], [CMS Administrator] Seema [Verma], both of them and others are working on this, and they're going to have very good — I would say over the next — in less than a week —

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Two days.

THE PRESIDENT:  — I think you're going to have very good statistics.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Two days.

THE PRESIDENT:  Couple of days.

Now, CMS Administrator Verma says those data won't be released until early May. She spoke on a teleconference with reporters on Monday.

Her explanation? COVID-19 only got its own claims code on April 1, and the administration need a month's worth of claims data to provide a meaningful look at the race of COVID patients.

She said that with health care providers — especially those who are currently overwhelmed — there is often a lag between when they treat the patient and when they submit claims. "We are just starting to get that information in," Verma said. "What we saw in the first week wasn't significant enough or we think it would have been misleading to put that data out."

But, she added, "you'll be seeing a comprehensive analysis of our claims data starting in early May, based on the first month of claims data that we do have."

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