Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) on Tuesday picked apart boasts from the Trump administration about COVID-19 testing capacity in the United States, saying that it was “nothing to celebrate” and that early mistakes were partially responsible for thousands of deaths.
President Donald Trump and Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir — the administration’s point person for testing — had bragged at a press briefing on Monday that the United States has performed far more testing than South Korea, even on a per-capita basis.
But as Romney pointed out, that metric missed a key distinction: South Korea and other countries achieved high rates of testing early in the COVID-19 pandemic, while the United States lost crucial time due to failures at the CDC and elsewhere to produce mass testing capacity.
“I understand that politicians are going to frame data in a way that’s most positive politically, but of course I don’t expect that from admirals,” Romney told Giroir during a hearing on the administration’s COVID-19 response.
“Yesterday, you celebrated that we had done more tests, and more tests per capita even, than South Korea,” Romney said. “But you ignored the fact that they accomplished theirs at the beginning of the outbreak, while we treaded water during February and March, and as a result, by March 6, the U.S. had completed just 2,000 tests whereas South Korea had conducted more than 140,000 tests.”
“Partially as a result of that,” Romney said, “they have 256 deaths and we have almost 80,000 deaths.”
“I find our testing record nothing to celebrate whatsoever,” the senator added.
South Korea’s testing numbers, Romney said, are currently going down because “they don’t have the kind of outbreak we have.” Meanwhile in the United States, they are increasing “as they have to,” he said.
“I think that’s an important lesson for us as we think about the future,” Romney concluded before moving on to another point.