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Cuomo says after U.S. blunders on coronavirus tests, New York will do its own

David Knowles
·Editor
·3 min read
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressed his frustration Wednesday with the Trump administration’s failure to provide adequate testing for the coronavirus and said his state would begin contracting with private labs.

“We’re not in a position where we can rely on the CDC or the FDA to manage this testing protocol,” Cuomo said at a news conference in Albany.

More than 200 people have so far tested positive for the coronavirus in New York, more than half of them in Westchester County, adjacent to New York City. The number of reported cases across the United States rose above 1,000 on Tuesday. But owing to a shortage of testing kits and confusion about who should be tested, the actual number of infected people is believed to be much higher.

Cuomo said the failure to conduct more tests is putting Americans at risk, comparing the administration’s record with that of other countries.

“On testing, when you look at the experience in China, you look at the experience in South Korea, what changed the trajectory of the incline of the number of cases? It was a tremendous amount of testing and investigation. China, 200,000 tests per day. South Korea, 15,000 tests per day. They were so aggressive on testing that they actually identified the people who tested positive, isolated them and then ran down the track of who those people may have contacted. Massive testing.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and President Trump. (AP/Seth Wenig, Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and President Trump. (AP/Seth Wenig, Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

“This country, we’ve done 5,000 tests to date, according to the secretary of health and human services. So our testing capacity is nowhere near what it needs to be,” Cuomo said.

On Tuesday, Cuomo established the first “containment area” in the U.S. in New Rochelle, a suburb of New York City in Westchester County. The declaration established a 1-mile radius around a synagogue in the town that appears to have been a contact point for some people who have tested positive for the virus. Schools, houses of worship and other gathering places are closed there for two weeks, and the National Guard has been mobilized to deliver food to residents who are unable or unwilling to leave their homes, although there is no mandatory lockdown.

Cuomo said Wednesday that questions remained about why more tests were not made available at the start of the outbreak in the United States.

“There will be a retrospective one day — what happened, why? You saw China — November, December last year — you saw the case coming. Why did it take so long for this country to get a testing protocol done?” Cuomo said. “New York state is going to take matters into its own hand[s]. We’re going to start contracting with private labs in this state to increase our testing capacity.”

Cuomo said New York was still waiting for the FDA to “sign off on the protocols of some of these tests” and that delay was “still complicating the situation.”

While Vice President Mike Pence has spoken glowingly about his interactions with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Cuomo’s criticisms are not likely to be taken well by Trump.

While touring the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta last week, Trump was asked about Pence’s praise of Inslee, who has been critical of the president.

“I told Mike [Pence] not to be complimentary of that governor because that governor is a snake,” Trump said. “So Mike may be happy with him, but I’m not, OK?”

“I don’t care what Donald Trump thinks of me, and I just kind of ignore it,” Inslee said on “Face the Nation.”

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