WASHINGTON (CN) — President Donald Trump said from the White House Rose Garden on Monday that the federal government has contracted with health care giant Abbott Laboratories to procure 150 million rapid Covid-19 tests for local governments in all 50 states to help them reopen schools.
“Fifty million tests will go to protect the most vulnerable communities, which we’ve always promised to do, including 18 million for nursing homes, 15 million for assisted living facilities, 10 million for home health and hospice care agencies and nearly 1 million for historically Black colleges and universities,” Trump said.
The president added that the number of tests being distributed will allow every state to regularly test teachers.
The global death toll for Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, surpassed 1 million on Monday, including over 200,000 Americans. Trump claimed during Monday’s press briefing that the U.S. has administrated over 100 million tests so far.
“We’ve conducted more tests then the entire European Union and more than all of Latin America combined,” the president said.
The flood of testing supplies is aimed at fortifying U.S. schools, in a push to return students to in-person learning. Trump said 100 million of the rapid tests will be used to help reopen local economies and schools, “immediately and as fast as they can.”
Joining Trump for the Rose Garden news conference, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves noted K-12 schools and college campuses have been open in his state for about nine weeks and said the availability of quicker tests will allow for daily testing of staff. The rapid test produces a result within 15 minutes and does not require a computer.
“And while we have 75 to 80% of our kids back in the classroom, we want to get 100% of our kids back in the classroom,” the Republican governor said.
The U.S. averages about 43,000 new cases per day. Last week, 22 states saw an increase in the rate of positive cases within their borders, with seven states – Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, Texas, Utah and Wyoming – seeing their positive rate grow by at least 60%.
Admiral Brett Giroir, who has overseen testing as part of the White House’s coronavirus task force, said the U.S. will soon have the ability to test about 3 million people per day, with half of those being rapid point-of-care tests. About 6.5 million tests of Trump’s promised 150 million will be shipped this week, he said.
Giroir also briefly demonstrated a rapid point-of-care test, showing those gathered in the Rose Garden that the swab is less intrusive than other methods.
“We’ve already shipped 65,000 of these to disaster operations in California, Oregon, Texas and Louisiana, and we have already shipped 2.1 million tests to 7,600 nursing homes,” Giroir said. “Over 900,000 tests to assisted living, 300,000 tests to the Indian Health Service and 339,000 tests to historically Black colleges and universities.”
Vice President Mike Pence lauded the announcement as “historic.” He said that in addition to the eventual release of a safe vaccine for Covid-19, the new shipment of rapid tests is a testament to Trump’s leadership.
The Trump administration got “a standing start” when it came to testing for the virus and the disease’s lethality, Pence said, adding the task force knew nothing of the virus’ coding until mid-February. The Washington Post reported earlier this month that Trump knew the virus was “deadly stuff” by the beginning of February, according to audio recordings by journalist Bob Woodward.
Reporters did not have a chance Monday to further press Trump about a New York Times report published Sunday evening that analyzed two decades Trump’s tax returns. The Times gleaned from those documents that the president only paid $750 in income taxes during his first two years in office and owes more than $400 million.
A 2010 refund from the IRS is still under investigation, according to the report. While Trump received $72.9 million in that tax return – his federal income tax from 2005 to 2008 plus interest – the audit the president claims prevents him from releasing his full tax returns could cost more than $100 million.
Trump called the Times report “totally fake news” during a briefing Sunday.
“But they’re under audit and when they’re not, I would be proud to show you, but that’s just fake news,” the president.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said Monday that Trump’s reported debt reveals national security concerns. In a statement, the California Democrat also said the Times story provides a window into the measures Trump would use to “avoid paying his fair share of taxes, while hard working Americans are.”
“It is a sign of President Trump’s disdain for America’s working families that he has spent years abusing the tax code while passing a GOP tax scam for the rich that gives 83% of the benefits to the wealthiest 1%,” she said.