During a hearing today about the COVID-19 pandemic, Porter pulled out a white board and absolutely grilled Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about providing free COVID-19 testing for Americans. “I did the math: a full battery of coronavirus testing costs at minimum $1,331,” Porter tweeted. “I also did the legal research: the Administration has the authority to make testing free for every American TODAY.”
She used that research to pressure Redfield into committing to providing free testing to all Americans, citing a law that lets the CDC pay for costs of diagnostic testing for anyone when needed. The first time Porter asks Redfield to commit to invoke that authority, he tries to avoid the question but Porter does not give up until she gets Redfield to say yes. "Do not let a lack of insurance worsen this crisis," she implored.
Porter’s advocacy comes on the heels of massive testing shortages in the U.S. Americans who suspect they may have coronavirus report being unable to access testing, and being shuffled around between their primary care doctors, emergency rooms, the Department of Health, and never receiving answers. Meanwhile, the Utah Jazz were able to procure 58 tests in a matter of hours and the Boston Celtics have said they are testing every player, as well. Two Trump allies were able to get tested despite showing no symptoms.
The U.S. is lagging behind nearly every major country when it comes to providing COVID-19 tests. An investigation by The Atlantic shows that, as of March 11, only about 7,000 COVID-19 tests have been performed in the U.S. For comparison, South Korea has tested more than 140,000 people and has set up drive-through testing stations to provide easier access for people.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease scientist, admitted that the testing situation was “failing” at a congressional hearing on Thursday — contradicting President Trump, who said testing was going “smooth[ly].” Angela Rasmussen, a Columbia University virologist, told Vox, “I think that we could have probably controlled this [outbreak], if we had effective testing.”
It remains to be seen whether the Trump administration will do what it needs to to make testing more accessible. In the meantime, at least we have people like Katie Porter (and her white board) fighting to make that a reality.