At Closed-Door Briefing With Top Administration Officials, Cantwell Calls for More Coronavirus Testing

Cantwell: “Be honest with people. Tell us when the tests are going to be available.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) confronted Vice President Mike Pence about the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak at a closed-door lunch where Democratic senators were briefed by top administration officials including the vice president, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Han, and White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Ambassador Debbie Birx.

Senator Cantwell questioned the vice president, who is leading the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus, about the lack of available tests.

After the lunch, Senator Cantwell told reporters: “They keep throwing out numbers like millions of tests and we're saying, ‘that's not right.’ Millions of tests aren't available right this second. People are calling their doctors and they're not being able to get tests.”

“Testing, testing, testing. Be honest with people. Everybody hit on it. Tell us when the tests are going to be available,” Cantwell continued, expressing frustration over the lack of transparency provided by Trump administration officials. “People are calling their doctors, and they’re not being able to get a test, so let’s get crisper and clearer about what the process is for people to get testing and when the availability of those tests will be there for them."

Earlier today, Senator Cantwell sent letters to major airlines and airports asking for their plans of action in response to the coronavirus and requesting specific information regarding pandemic response plans, aircraft and airport cleaning policies, existing protocol for notifying passengers when any serious communicable disease is detected, and flight cancellation policies. Cantwell has remained in constant contact with state and local officials and has been monitoring the situation closely as the coronavirus continues its spread in Washington state. The Trump administration has been slow to ramp up testing for the novel coronavirus, and has faced criticism over problems plaguing the test, as well as for initially imposing strict criteria on who could get testing.