A group of Senate Democrats wrote President Joe Biden’s top COVID-19 pandemic adviser last week and demanded answers for obvious shortcomings in Biden’s pandemic response.
The concerns outlined in the letter stand in stark contrast to Biden’s October 2020 promise to “shut down the virus.”
What does the letter say?
The group of Senate Democrats sent a letter to White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeffrey Zients on Thursday, demanding answers for the Biden administration’s failure to take proactive steps to increase COVID testing.
The Democrats — Sens. Jacky Rosen (Nev.), Mark Kelly (Ariz.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Jon Ossoff (Ga.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) — demanded to know “why the Administration failed to take more significant steps earlier to increase access to at-home tests.”
“Across America, there are lines for city blocks long to get COVID testing, signs in pharmacies saying they are out of rapid tests, hospitals operating under crisis standards of care, health care staff and first responders falling ill, and millions of people who are exhausted from the toll this pandemic has had,” the letter states.
The letter goes on to say:
While we fully recognize the productive steps this Administration has taken to encourage vaccination, ensure ready access to vaccines, and increase options to treat the virus, far too many measures – such as increasing access to home-based testing – have been reactive, rather than proactive.
This Administration either knew or should have known that testing shortages were occurring across the country over the past several months, and with the full expectation that the virus would likely mutate into a new variant steps to increase testing access should have happened before the current wave hit, not several weeks into the surge, with resources still not available until later this month or beyond.
Last month, Vanity Fair reported that Biden rejected a plan in October that outlined how to mass produce and distribute at-home COVID-19 tests before Christmas. Biden, however, denied that his administration rejected the plan.
How did the White House respond?
A White House official told CNN that administration officials “are in contact with our colleagues at the Hill about a range of issues related to our COVID-19 response, and share their goal of expanding access to free, at home testing.”
However, the official also downplayed the problem around lack of tests.
“While we are not where we would like to be with at home testing, neither are most countries due to unprecedented demand,” the official said.
Last month, Biden announced a plan to distribute 500 million at-home COVID tests. Last week, he announced the government would procure another 500 million for a total of 1 billion tests. However, Americans will not be able to order the tests until later this week, and the tests should arrive one to two weeks after they are ordered.