by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The story of how the country went from nothing to more than half-a-million COVID tests on some days is a tale of inspired private–public cooperation. After bad initial stumbles when the Centers for Disease Control fouled up the initial test (at a time when it had a monopoly on testing) and when a Food and Drug Administration regulatory bottleneck stymied the development of testing in the private sector, the administration found its footing.
It used cooperative data, governmental authorities, relationships with the private sector, and improvisation-on-the-fly to work through supply shortages and other problems. Giroir’s team, a group of trouble-shooting aides around White House adviser Jared Kushner, the FDA, and the Department of Health and Human Services all played important roles. Meanwhile, private companies — often working hand-and-glove with the administration — quickly innovated and scaled up their production of everything from swabs to test kits.
At the beginning of March, there were fewer than 1,000 tests in the country on most days. By the end of March, there were more than 100,000 a day. The number climbed again before hovering somewhere around 150,000 a day for much of April. …
… There has been a lot of media attention, and justifiably so, on the initial CDC and FDA foul-ups and the initial overpromising on testing. But as the administration moved beyond that and pursued a considered but urgent approach to testing, the media persisted in harsh critiques that betrayed a misunderstanding of what was really happening.
The media often insisted that there was no testing plan, simply because the plan wasn’t centralized enough, a line of attack pursued by Democrats as well. …
… The Trump administration’s general approach was to catalyze and support the private sector while working with the states to identify the testing capacity available to them and to secure the necessary supplies to meet their goals.