WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Senate plans to reconvene tomorrow, despite the fact that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) testing capacity at the U.S. Capitol is inadequate. 

As the United States faces a severe national shortage of COVID-19 test kits and lab resources, the Trump Administration yesterday offered to send the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate 1,000 Abbott coronavirus test kits.  However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) respectfully declined the offer on a bipartisan basis and asked that the tests be prioritized for those on the front line.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) praised the bipartisan leadership of Pelosi and McConnell and reiterated the need to make testing available for all Americans who need it.  Reed also took issue with President Trump singling out Speaker Pelosi for criticism, despite the fact that Congress rejected the offer for special treatment on a bipartisan basis.  Trump tweeted: “No reason to turn it down, except politics. We have plenty of testing. Maybe you need a new Doctor over there. Crazy Nancy will use it as an excuse not to show up to work!”

“Extensive, accurate COVID-19 testing is essential, but America’s testing capacity still lags far behind where it needs to be.  At a time when front line health workers can’t access the testing they need, and when Americans are dying after being denied access to testing, the president’s offer makes no sense.  Instead, he really ought to scale up accurate testing infrastructure for all Americans,” said Reed.  “We’re supposed to all be in this together, but there are wide and unacceptable disparities in who gets access to testing.”

Reed noted the recent testing guidance touted by the Trump Administration is woefully inadequate and simply shifted increased responsibility to states without requisite support and coordination from the White House.

Senator Reed remains concerned that if states reopen without adequate testing capacity, and without a robust, coordinated national strategy in place, it will lead to another major wave of COVID-19 cases.

Reed stated: “President Trump should help coordinate a national testing strategy, streamline supply chains, and deliver needed resources.  Instead, the Trump Administration has forced states to fend for themselves and even compete with the federal government for scarce supplies.  As a result, taxpayers are paying more and there are fewer tests to go around.  It’s not just quantity, but the quality, effectiveness, and reliability of tests.  The Trump Administration is trying to get away with doing the bare minimum and that shortchanges health workers, first responders, and millions of American workers who need to be tested in order to safely re-open the economy.”

Trump Administration officials told the press the federal government would provide each state with enough tests, swabs, and related materials to screen 2.6 percent of their populations in May and June.  And according to an analysis by the Associated Press: “only about 40% of states currently meet even the 2% testing threshold.”

Rhode Island leads the nation in the percentage of residents who have been tested for COVID-19, with “an average of 283 tests per 100,000 residents a day, compared with 79 tests per 100,000 people in the United States over all,” according to the New York Times.

Researchers at Harvard University have proposed that in order to begin safely reopening the economy, the nation should be conducting a daily minimum of 152 tests per 100,000 people, or 500,000 people.  According to a data analysis by the Harvard Global Health Initiative and the medical news site STAT, more than half of U.S. states need far more testing in order to safely lift COVID-19 restrictions.

“Rhode Island has made smart investments and worked overtime to strengthen our coronavirus testing capacity.  The state has done a lot to overcome supply shortages and testing delays, but those efforts won’t mean much if other states can’t control the spread.  Every state is trying hard, but President Trump isn’t matching that effort with a strong, unified strategy that fully utilizes the federal government’s scientific, logistical, and economic capacity,” concluded Reed. 


To date, over 6.5 million Americans have been tested for COVID-19, with 1.1 million Americans testing positive and over 65,000 confirmed deaths.