Pence Explains the Failure to Meet Testing Goals in a Supremely Unhelpful Way

President Trump stands behind Vice President Pence at a podium outdoors in the White House Rose Garden.

Vice President Pence answers questions during Monday's daily briefing from the coronavirus task force.Win McNamee/Getty

The coronavirus is a rapidly developing news story, so some of the content in this article might be out of date. Check out our most recent coverage of the coronavirus crisis, and subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

During Monday’s White House press briefing on coronavirus, a reporter asked Vice President Pence to explain the discrepancy between the number of tests he’d promised would be available mid-March—4 million—and the number of tests that were actually done by that time, a much lower figure. The United States did not reach its goal of conducting 4 million tests until April 20. (By contrast, a plan developed by a Nobel Prize–winning economist and a former FDA chief suggests the US should be testing 3 million people per week before re-opening even parts of the economy.)

Pence responded by claiming 4 million tests were conducted by early April, but a lag in processing the tests made the numbers seem lower. 

“So when you said 4 million tests, you were talking about tests being sent out, not actually completed?” asked the reporter.

“Precisely correct,” said Pence. 

The spin continued throughout the press conference. The briefing began with the leaders of CVS, Walgreens, and Rite-Aid taking the podium to reflect on the ways in which the private sector has stepped up to fight the virus. Yet it’s been more than six weeks since Trump brought these same company heads to a press conference to promise that they would scale up drive-through testing across country to meet the massive demand. Today, only 43 sites are operating in less than two dozen states, according to CNBC.

And more promises were made: President Trump today claimed that private sector partnerships would deliver more than 8 million tests in May. CVS promised 1,000 testing sites across the US by that time. Trump said by then we’ll be doing 100,000 tests per day. 

Whatever justifies re-opening the states and putting people back to work. “We want them all to do it as quickly as possible,” said Trump.

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate