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Senate Health Committee member Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told coronavirus task force member Admiral Brett Giroir during a hearing Tuesday that the level of U.S. testing for the virus was “nothing to celebrate,” despite the Trump administration’s claims on the preceding day.
“Yesterday, [Monday] you celebrated that we had done more tests and more tests per capita even than South Korea,” Romney told Giroir, who serves as Assistant Secretary for Health. “But you ignored the fact that they accomplished theirs at the beginning of the outbreak, while we treaded water during February and March, And as a result, by March 6, the U.S. had completed just 2,000 tests, whereas South Korea had conducted more than 140,000 tests.
“So, partially as a result of that,” Romney continued, “they [South Korea] have 256 deaths and we have almost 80,000 deaths. I find our testing record nothing to celebrate whatsoever. The fact is their test numbes are going down, down, down, down now because they don’t have the kind of outbreak we have. Ours are going up, up, up, as they have to. I think that’s an important lesson for us as we think about the future.”
At one point, Romney suggested Giroir was abusing his title as admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
“I understand that politicians are going to frame data in a way that is most positive politically,” the senator said. “Of course, I don’t expect that from admirals.”
On Monday, Giroir and Trump touted the America’s testing rate in comparison to other countries. Trump specifically said that U.S. testing capacity was “unmatched and unrivaled anywhere in the world.”
Romney has been one of the few prominent Republicans to openly criticize the administration. He notably received intense criticism from conservatives after he voted to convict Trump of abuse of power during the Senate’s impeachment trial earlier this year.
Trump has also repeatedly criticied the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, tweeting on March 25 that he was “so happy” that Romney had tested negative for coronavirus.
“He may have been a terrible presidential candidate and an even worse U.S. Senator,” Trump tweeted, “but he is a RINO, and I like him a lot!”
In response to Romney’s comments, the White House reiterated the administration’s progress on testing.
“Under the leadership of President Trump, the United States has done more than double the number of tests of any country in the world,” White House spokesperson Judd Deere told Fox News. “We are the global leader in testing capacity and continue to work with governors to ensure they have enough capacity for a safe, responsible reopen.”
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