Report: In Spring, White House Scrapped Comprehensive, National Covid Testing Plan

In this June 14, 2020 photo, Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's White House senior adviser, follows Trump across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington.

In this June 14, 2020 photo, Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's White House senior adviser, follows Trump across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. AP Photo

 

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STATE AND LOCAL NEWS ROUNDUP | Sleepaway camp in Georgia was the site of a large Covid outbreak … Houston authorities launch public education campaign to prevent coronavirus spread … NYC says people in certain neighborhoods need to reduce electricity use.

A new report in Vanity Fair says that the White House in late March crafted a plan for a robust national coronavirus testing regime, along with plans for contact tracing, but then scrapped it. The “detailed plan” obtained by the magazine had been slated to be presented to President Trump and revealed to the public, likely at a Rose Garden news conference, in April. One participant in crafting the proposal described themselves as “beyond optimistic” about the plan before it then “just went poof into thin air.” Instead, the Trump administration left it up to states to develop testing strategies, which has led to a hodgepodge approach and delays in getting results back that have rendered a large component of tests almost completely useless as the virus surges in many states. The proposal was put together by a team assembled by Jared Kushner, the president’s adviser and son-in-law, who had gathered both diagnostic experts and personal friends. One participant offered up a theory as to why it was eventually pushed to the side: At the time, states run by Democrats were dealing with the worst outbreaks, which made coming up with a national strategy less politically appealing for the Republican administration. “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” the person said. The White House has denied this assertion, with press secretary Kayleigh McEnany saying the “premise of this article is completely false.” [Vanity Fair]

SUMMER CAMP COVID | An overnight summer camp in Georgia that implemented some Covid-19 security precautions, but not all the measures recommended for camps, was the site of one of the largest outbreaks in the state, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. There were eventually 260 cases identified at the YMCA camp. While staff wore masks, children attending the camp did not. The camp also didn’t improve ventilation in buildings. “Relatively large cohorts sleeping in the same cabin and engaging in regular singing and cheering likely contributed to transmission,” the CDC said. [Atlanta Journal Constitution; New York Times]

EDUCATION CAMPAIGN | Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced a new public education campaign about “proven behaviors” that can slow the spread of coronavirus, paired with a goal to lower the city’s positive testing rate from 23% to 5% in August. "Thousands of our family and friends have been sickened and hundreds of Houstonians have died because of the virus," said Turner. "'[This campaign] reminds us the proven behaviors of wearing a mask, social distancing, washing hands and getting tested work better together to slow the spread." [ABC 13]

DAM REMOVAL | California Gov. Gavin Newsom appealed to investor Warren Buffett to show support for the demolition of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River, a last ditch effort to save dwindling salmon populations that several Native American tribes rely on. The dams are owned by PacificCorp, part of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. “The river is sick, and the Klamath Basin tribes are suffering,” Newsom wrote. [Market Watch]

REDUCE ELECTRICITY | In New York City, Con Edison and Mayor Bill de Blasio have asked residents in certain neighborhoods to reduce their energy usage on hot days, forgoing the use of washers, dryers, and microwaves, and limiting the use of air conditioning. The company said that the measures are necessary to prevent the system from overloading. "Your electric supply is in danger right now. Please take this warning seriously,” de Blasio told affected residents. [Gothamist]

Laura Maggi is the managing editor at Route Fifty and Emma Coleman is the assistant editor.

NEXT STORY: Patients Fled Primary Care During COVID-19

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