Biden once called Trump’s COVID-19 testing push a ‘travesty,’ faces own criticism

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President Biden’s tough criticism of his predecessor’s effort to make COVID-19 tests available has resurfaced while his own administration faces blowback over test shortages.

In December 2020, then President-elect Biden tried to hold Trump’s feet to the fire over his COVID-19 response and took particular issue with the lack of available testing for Americans. The Washington Post reported that Biden called it a “travesty” that the lack of testing remained an issue.

Jan. 3: President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual meeting about reducing the costs of meat through increased competition in the meat processing industry in the South Court Auditorium at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)
( Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

The Biden administration has suffered a political blow from critics who say it did not anticipate a new surge of infections and focused too heavily on vaccinations. Biden told governors late last month that the effort has not been enough. 

“We have to do more,” he said. “We have to do better, and we will.”

Biden said it was not a failure but said the new cases led to an alarm bell going off.

Jan. 3: Cars wait in line on Alton Parkway for a COVID-19 test at Kaiser Permanente in Irvine, California. (Photo by Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
(Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

Biden also added that “all of a sudden, it was like everybody rushed to the counter. There was a big, big rush, and I knew that was coming. So what I tried to do was meet with the companies and use the Defense Production Act to get a half a billion more tests and figure out how to get them to their homes, get them on the shelves in the stores. That’s what it’s all about.”

FILE: Cars line up at a COVID-19 testing site at the South Orange Youth Sports Complex in Orlando. Due to the extreme demand for testing as a result of the spread of the omicron variant, the county opened this site in addition to two other existing sites which have reached capacity on a daily basis, forcing them to close early. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
(Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The Biden administration announced a plan to purchase 500 million at-home rapid tests for COVID-19 and distribute them for free, but health experts said  the number is far below what is needed to address the omicron surge.

Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School Public Health, said the administration’s failure to roll out kits before the Christmas and New Year’s holidays was an “opportunity lost.” 

Across the U.S., new COVID-19 cases have tripled in the past two weeks to over 400,000 a day, the highest level on record, amid a rush by many Americans to get tested. Americans have been searching drugstores for scarce home tests or waiting hours in chilly temperatures at testing facilities across the country.

Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the Brown University of Public Health dean, told CNN that he could not believe that “this is where we are almost two years into the pandemic.”

“Everybody saw it coming. We knew we needed more tests. I think the administration dropped the ball on this,” he said.

Fox News’ Bradford Betz, Nikolas Lanum and the Associated Press contributed to this report

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