[Vision2020] Trump's Virus Promises Unfilled

Nicholas Gier ngier006 at gmail.com
Mon Apr 13 10:43:24 PDT 2020


Drive-through testing largely nonexistent at retail partners

During the Rose Garden address, the president introduced a series of
leaders from major retailers to suggest there would be cooperation between
the federal government and private sector companies for drive-through

"We've been in discussions with pharmacies and retailers to make
drive-through tests available in the critical locations identified by
public health professionals," President Trump said.

NPR contacted the retailers that were represented there and found that
discussions have not led to any wide-scale implementation of drive-through

In the month since the announcement, Walmart has opened two testing sites —
one in the Chicago area and another in Bentonville, Ark. Walgreens has
opened two in Chicago; CVS has opened four sites.

Brian Cornell, board chairman and CEO of Target Corp., speaks during the
March 13 news conference with President Trump at the White House. Target
has so far not opened any COVID-19 testing sites.
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Target has not opened any. In fact, the company said it had no formal
partnership with the federal government and suggested that it was waiting
for the government to take the lead.

"At this time, federal, state and local officials continue to lead the
planning for additional testing sites," a Target spokesperson said. "We
stand committed to offering our parking lot locations and supporting their
efforts when they are ready to activate."

Home testing promised, but not implemented

The president also welcomed Bruce Greenstein, an executive vice president
of the LHC Group, to the microphone.

Greenstein's organization primarily provides in-home health care, and he
pledged that it would be helping with testing "for Americans that can't get
to a test site or live in rural areas far away from a retail establishment."

NPR called more than 20 LHC sites in 12 states, and none of them is doing
in-home testing one month following the Rose Garden address. Employees at
the LHC sites said they lacked both testing kits and the training to
administer kits.

In response to NPR's reporting, Greenstein said their primary focus so far
has been getting proper personal protective equipment, or PPE, for their
nurses and working with hospitals on transitioning recovered COVID-19
patients home. He says they'll start working with one New Orleans hospital
"as soon as next week" to provide in-home testing and to expand the service

LHC Group Executive Vice President Bruce Greenstein bumps elbows with
President Trump during the March 13 news conference.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
No screening website to facilitate drive-through testing

During the March 13 Rose Garden address, the president also promised that
Google was working to develop a website to determine whether a COVID-19
test would be warranted, and if so, to direct individuals to nearby testing.

The president said there were 1,700 Google engineers working on it, and the
vice president said that guidance on the website would be available in two

"Google is helping to develop a website," the president said. "It's going
to be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past, to determine whether
a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient

Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator at the White House,
said the website would screen patients, tell them where to receive
drive-through testing and provide testing results.

No such screening and testing website has been developed by Google.

A pilot program was developed by Verily, a sister company to Google owned
by the same parent company, Alphabet. Verily's program, called Project
Baseline, was created to support California community-based COVID-19
testing from screening to testing to delivery of test results.

Verily has rolled out six testing sites primarily in coordination with the
California state government — not the federal government — and is currently
available only to residents of five counties in California.

During the March 13 news conference, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House
coronavirus response coordinator, outlined a website that would screen
patients, tell them where to receive testing and provide results. No such
screening service came to exist.
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
"We work in partnership with local public health agencies, the California
governor's office, and the California Department of Public Health," a
spokesperson for Verily said, adding that its COVID-19 testing program was
"federally supported."

There were never 1,700 engineers engaged in the project, as the president
had claimed, according to Verily.

"As we initially ramped this program, we had nearly 1,000 volunteers from
across Alphabet supporting a variety of functions," a Verily spokesperson
told NPR.

Verily is in discussions with other health care organizations to support
this kind of testing project outside of California, but there has been no
announcement of future plans to do so.

A Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson pointed out that
Apple had released a screening tool in collaboration with the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention and the White House. That screening tool
does not have the functions outlined in the March 13 Rose Garden address.

The president's federal agency promises

In declaring the national emergency last month, the president also proposed
several policy changes that were solely within the realm of the federal
government to execute. On these, the administration largely followed

President Trump promised to waive interest on student loans held by
government agencies, for instance. That policy was implemented by the
secretary of education on March 20.

And the president made good on pledges to waive regulations and laws to
give medical providers flexibility to respond to the health care crisis.

But there were exceptions. The president said he would waive license
requirements so that doctors could practice in states with the greatest
needs, for example. But medical licensing is a state issue, and the
president does not have the authority to waive it.

President Trump speaks during the March 13 news conference. In addition to
declaring a national emergency, the president also proposed several policy
changes, such as waiving interest on federal student loans.
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
"There's no statutory authority for the federal government to take over the
delivery of health care services," says Dale Van Demark, a partner advising
health industries at the law firm McDermott Will & Emery. Added Iris
Hentze, policy specialist at The National Conference of State Legislatures:
"These occupational licenses are really more or less completely controlled
and regulated by states." What the federal government was able to do is to
waive in-state requirements for health care providers that serve people
enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP, so they can get reimbursed for the
out-of-state care they provided.

The promises weren't limited to matters of health care. The president
announced that his administration would "purchase, at a very good price,
large quantities of crude oil for storage in the U.S. Strategic Reserve."

"We're going to fill it right up to the top," he said, "saving the American
taxpayer billions and billions of dollars."

The Trump administration has not done so. The president made the promise
without first securing the funds from Congress, and the Department of
Energy puts the responsibility on Congress' shoulders.

"Despite strong efforts from the Administration, Congress would not provide
funding for the purchase of oil for SPR in the Stimulus bill," a Department
of Energy spokesperson said. "The Department continues to work with
Congress to deliver on the President's directive to provide relief to the
American energy industry during this tumultuous time."

A failure in public-private partnerships

Later in that March 13 press conference, when asked whether he took
responsibility for the apparent lag in coronavirus testing in the United
States, the president responded, "I don't take responsibility at all."

He also suggested that laboratory capacity for testing would soon greatly
expand. And he singled out two companies:

"I want to thank Roche, a great company, for their incredible work. I'd
also like to thank Thermo Fisher," he said.

Roche Diagnostics Corp. President and CEO Matthew Sause speaks at the March
13 news conference. Roche and Thermo Fisher Scientific said they
distributed millions of tests to labs, but that didn't increase testing
because the U.S. lags behind in sample collection kits.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Trump noted that the FDA was approving their processes and then made a
prediction. "It'll go very quickly," he said. "It's going very quickly —
which will bring, additionally, 1.4 million tests on board next week and 5
million within a month. I doubt we'll need anywhere near that."

Roche and Thermo Fisher Scientific said they were able to get millions of
tests distributed on schedule to labs in the United States, one of the rare
bright spots in the coronavirus crisis. These tests are what are used at
labs to check whether samples contain the coronavirus.

But those tests were not the primary reason for inadequate testing. The
United States lags behind in sample collection kits — the swabs and tubes
that front-line medical workers send to labs.

And those labs themselves struggled with processing capacity.

In the days before the March 13 Rose Garden address, leaders of diagnostic
testing labs such as LabCorp and Quest went to the White House with three
core requests. And during the Rose Garden address, the CEOs of those two
organizations stood with the president as the coronavirus task force
pledged to wield government resources for their partnership.

More than a month later, the diagnostic testing labs — and the group that
represents them in Washington, the American Clinical Laboratory Association
— still have those three requests: government funds to build new testing
facilities, national standards to prioritize who gets tested and government
support for the supply chain.

President Trump leaves the Rose Garden after the March 13 news conference
about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Few of the promises made at the
conference have been fulfilled.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Konyndyk said it was an indication that the public-private partnerships the
president touted on March 13 were a one-way street.

"What you want to have is a constructive partnership between the federal
government and the private sector. Instead, what we see, I think, is a game
of 'not it,' " said Konyndyk, who served in the Obama administration at
USAID, leading the government response to international disasters.

Although the federal government needs the help of the private sector, the
federal government has only limited power over those companies. So to make
things work, there needs to be close cooperation and advanced negotiation
before announcing what companies will do, and that didn't happen, Konyndyk

Private companies did part of what was promised in the Rose Garden address
— there is more testing today than a month ago.

But by over-promising what private sector companies would do — and in some
cases, without adequate consultation about what they could do — the White
House left other pledges that day unfulfilled.


A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they
shall never sit in.

-Greek proverb

“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity.
Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance
from another. This immaturity is self- imposed when its cause lies not in
lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without
guidance from another. Sapere Aude! ‘Have courage to use your own
understand-ing!—that is the motto of enlightenment.

--Immanuel Kant
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://mailman.fsr.com/pipermail/vision2020/attachments/20200413/780078cf/attachment-0001.html>

More information about the Vision2020 mailing list