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Top Trump Administration Officials Disagree on Whether the CDC’s COVID-19 Response ‘Let the Country Down’

2 minute read

Does the Trump Administration believe the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) let the country down with its coronavirus response? It depends on who you ask.

The CDC has faced mounting criticism during the pandemic for first delivering a test that failed to accurately detect the novel coronavirus, and then for the speed at which it ramped up its national testing capabilities.

On Sunday morning, White House Advisor Peter Navarro said, “early on in this crisis, the CDC, which really had the most trusted brand around the world in this space, really let the country down with the testing,” while Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar suggested the opposite.

Navarro told Meet the Press host Chuck Todd, “Not only did (the CDC) keep the testing within the bureaucracy, they had a bad test and that did set us back.”

Later in the morning, host of CBS’ Face the Nation Margaret Brennan asked Azar, “Your colleague Peter Navarro has said that the CDC let the country down. Given the CDC reports up to you, do you take responsibility for that?”

“I don’t believe the CDC let this country down,” Azar said. “I believe the CDC serves an important public health role and what was always critical was to get the private sector to the table.”

Azar said the coronavirus pandemic created a completely unprecedented challenge.

“There has never been a national immediate testing regime across public and private sectors. We have had to literally build this from the ground up,” Azar said, adding that the CDC’s role is to develop tests that health labs will conduct for an initial diagnosis “but then we count on the private sector actually to scale up” large test capacities and “that’s what we’ve done in historic time.”

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Write to Sanya Mansoor at sanya.mansoor@time.com