Testing Supply Failures

The early delays in devising coronavirus tests proved to be disastrous. Months into the crisis, shortages in testing capacity remain, severely impeding an effective response to the pandemic.
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When President Donald Trump claimed in March that “Anybody that wants a test can get a test,” he was wrong. He was wrong again in May when he said, “If somebody wants to be tested right now, they’ll be able to be tested.” In July, long lines at testing centers and delayed results continued to paint a picture of a country seriously hampered in its ability to create an effective testing regime, one of the most important tools for combating the pandemic.

The failures began early, when tests created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention turned out to be faulty, resulting in lost time and work. Bureaucratic hurdles further delayed widespread testing, and narrow guidelines for who could get tested allowed the virus to circulate among those who were asymptomatic or who were experiencing symptoms they thought to be from a cold.

American Oversight’s investigation of these early and ongoing testing missteps includes requests for related communications and directives, and data on the number of people who had been tested at various times to determine whether the facts match what public officials had been saying. We’re also looking into how the federal government has coordinated with state public health agencies, including reportedly having told certain state medical officials to stop testing during the early months of the crisis.

 

Updates

In the Documents: Federal and Local Governments’ Communications from Early Months of Pandemic Show Confusion, Frustration

December 2, 2020
Here’s a summary of coronavirus-related records that American Oversight has published in the last month.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Skyrocketing Cases, Planning for a Vaccine, and Supreme Court Ruling Against Pandemic Restrictions

November 30, 2020
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

Investigations Update: Coronavirus Safety Measures, USAGM Lobbying, and Voting by Mail Alarmism

September 29, 2020
See the latest in our investigations into the White House’s control of Covid-19 information, influence and access at the U.S. Agency for Global Media, and Trump’s Supreme Court pick.

New GAO Report Finds Supply and Testing Shortages Are Weakening Federal Pandemic Response

September 23, 2020
The Government Accountability Office’s latest Covid-19 report details significant supply-chain issues are still an issue nearly half a year into the crisis.

News Roundup: The Rules That (Don’t) Apply

August 27, 2020
There are the rules followed by President Trump and those closest to him, and then there are the rules that apply to everyone else.

‘We’ve All Given Up Getting a Straight Answer from You Guys’: Frustrated Emails Between Illinois Governor’s Office and White House

July 9, 2020
American Oversight obtained March emails between a White House official and the Illinois governor's office that show the mounting anger over the lack of a federal leadership.

The CDC Has Been Illegally Rejecting Valid FOIA Requests. We’re Suing.

May 15, 2020
American Oversight filed a lawsuit over the agency’s illegal practice of rejecting valid Freedom of Information Act requests — including for documents related to the coronavirus pandemic.

American Oversight Sues Treasury, State and HHS for Coronavirus Communications

May 6, 2020
The lawsuit seeks seeks the release of emails sent by senior appointees including Secretary Mnuchin, Secretary Azar, and Secretary Pompeo.

American Oversight Sues for Coronavirus-Related Records

April 10, 2020
American Oversight today sued the Trump administration for failing to release records detailing early coronavirus testing decisions.

News Roundup: Continuing Our Investigation of Coronavirus Response

March 13, 2020
As we all take steps to mitigate the severity of the outbreak, American Oversight is continuing to investigate the Trump administration’s troublingly inadequate response to the crisis.

News Roundup: Rising Coronavirus Fears and Sinking Public Trust

March 6, 2020
The uncertainty and fear surrounding the coronavirus have laid bare the deadly consequences of President Donald Trump’s demand for obsequious loyalty and a refusal to take responsibility for mistakes.
Show all updates

Related Documents

October 30, 2020

CDC Communications Containing Terms Related to Covid-19 and Testing

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Agency Record
October 23, 2020

No Records Response from CDC Regarding Covid-19 Data and Testing Guidance

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Agency Reply
October 21, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Communications About Transitioning Federally Funded Coronavirus Testing Sites to State and Local Control

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
October 21, 2020

FOIA to FEMA Seeking Communications About Transitioning Federally Funded Coronavirus Testing Sites to State and Local Control

Department of Homeland Security, DHS - Federal Emergency Management Agency
FOIA Request
October 21, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Analyses About Transitioning Federally Funded Coronavirus Testing Sites to State and Local Control

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
October 21, 2020

FOIA to FEMA Seeking Analyses About Transitioning Federally Funded Coronavirus Testing Sites to State and Local Control

Department of Homeland Security, DHS - Federal Emergency Management Agency
FOIA Request
October 21, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Directives About Transitioning Federally Funded Coronavirus Testing Sites to State and Local Control

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
October 21, 2020

FOIA to FEMA Seeking Directives About Transitioning Federally Funded Coronavirus Testing Sites to State and Local Control

Department of Homeland Security, DHS - Federal Emergency Management Agency
FOIA Request
September 29, 2020

FOIA to Multiple Agencies Seeking Talking Points Regarding Changes to CDC Testing Guidelines

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
September 23, 2020

FOIA to Multiple Agencies Seeking Email Communications Regarding Changes to CDC Testing Guidelines

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, HHS - National Institutes of Health
FOIA Request
May 15, 2020

Complaint: American Oversight v. CDC and HHS — FOIA Request Violations

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Litigation
May 5, 2020

Complaint: American Oversight v. HHS, CMS, State, and Treas — Sent Communications Containing Terms Related to Coronavirus 

Department of Health and Human Services, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Litigation
March 18, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Assessments of the Impact of Coronavirus Testing Limitation Decisions

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
March 18, 2020

FOIA to FDA Seeking Assessments of the Impact of Coronavirus Testing Limitation Decisions

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration
FOIA Request
March 17, 2020

FOIA to CDC Seeking Communications with External Entities Involved in Coronavirus Testing

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
FOIA Request
March 17, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Communications with External Entities Involved in Coronavirus Testing

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
March 17, 2020

FOIA to Treasury Seeking Sent Communications Containing Terms Related to Coronavirus

Department of the Treasury
FOIA Request
March 17, 2020

FOIA to State Seeking Sent Communications Containing Terms Related to Coronavirus

Department of State
FOIA Request
March 17, 2020

FOIA to CMS Seeking Sent Communications Containing Terms Related to Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services
FOIA Request
March 17, 2020

FOIA to CDC Seeking Sent Communications Containing Terms Related to Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
FOIA Request
March 17, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Sent Communications Containing Terms Related to Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
March 11, 2020

Rejection from the CDC Regarding How Many Individuals Have Been Tested for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Agency Reply
March 11, 2020

Public Records Request to Washington State Health Department Seeking Directives Not to Test for Coronavirus

Washington State Department of Health
FOIA Request
March 11, 2020

Public Records Request to Washington State Health Department Seeking Communications with the White House, CDC, or HHS

Washington State Department of Health
FOIA Request
March 11, 2020

FOIL Request to NY Department of Health Seeking Communications with CDC and FDA Regarding Coronavirus Testing

New York State Department of Health
FOIA Request
March 11, 2020

FOIL Request to NY Governor’s Office Seeking Communications with CDC and FDA Regarding Coronavirus Testing

New York Office of the Governor
FOIA Request
March 9, 2020

FOIA to State Seeking Report on Coronavirus Disinformation

Department of State
FOIA Request
March 9, 2020

FOIA to State Seeking Emails and Other Evidence Concerning Coronavirus Disinformation

Department of State
FOIA Request
March 9, 2020

FOIA to State Seeking Evidence Concerning Coronavirus Disinformation Provided to Social Media Companies

Department of State
FOIA Request
March 5, 2020

FOIA to CDC Seeking Records Reflecting Data on the Numbers of Individuals Tested for Coronavirus

HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
FOIA Request
March 5, 2020

FOIA to Multiple Agencies Seeking All Records Reflecting Decisions Regarding Testing for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, HHS - National Institutes of Health
FOIA Request
March 5, 2020

FOIA to Multiple Agencies Seeking Directives Regarding Testing for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, HHS - National Institutes of Health
FOIA Request