Following meeting with Trump, Cuomo says New York will double COVID testing capacity

April 22, 2020

Photo of Donald Trump via Wikimedia Commons; Photo of Governor Andrew Cuomo via Wikimedia Commons

It was a question of friend or foe leading up to Governor Cuomo’s meeting at the White House yesterday, but it looks like the governor, who has been referred to as the “Trump whisperer,” came out of the chat with some concrete federal commitments when it comes to advancing coronavirus testing in the state. After the meeting, the governor announced a partnership with the federal government that will double the current daily testing capacity from 20,000 to 40,000, which includes both diagnostic and antibody tests. The state will manage the actual tests in its laboratories, but the federal government will be responsible for handling the international supply chain issues associated with testing that are out of the state’s purview.

The State of New York currently performs about 20,000 tests per day. It will take “several weeks to ramp up to” what the governor calls “the aggressive goal of 40,000.” He said of his meeting with Trump: “To have a real progress you have to sit down and go through the various steps of testing and actually decide who does what and that’s what we did this afternoon.” To that end, Governor Cuomo has repeatedly said that the national manufacturers of the testing equipment have supply chain issues when it comes to materials such as reagents that often come from overseas. This hinders their ability to ramp up their manufacturing efforts to the necessary levels. The federal government has agreed to take responsibility for these international supply chain issues.

The state has roughly 300 laboratories that are managed by the DOH. Deciding where the tests should be done, how many should be performed, and staffing concerns will all be up to the state, as will the division of testing (diagnostic vs. antibody) and post-testing tracing.

It’s unclear, however, what the division of testing will look like. The governor has said numerous times that it’s the antibody testing that will help reopen the economy. Just last week, he said that the state would begin 2,000 finger prick antibody tests per day and had asked the FDA to approve a similar finger prick test that could potentially test 100,000 people a day.

“It ends the whole back and forth and the finger-pointing in a very fair and smart way. It’s a smart resolution so I feel very good about that. If we could double our tests that would be a home run,” said Governor Cuomo following the meeting. Trump said, “We will work together to help them secure additional tests. And we hope that this model will work with the other states as well.”

Governor Cuomo also mentioned that he met not just with Trump but members of his team on the more granular aspects. “It has to be on the details, so people actually know what we’re agreeing to and it was on that level.”

Aside from testing, the governor discussed with Trump the issue of federal funding to the states, and he spoke to both Trump and Secretary Mnuchin about a local match for FEMA funding. Cuomo also said that New York City no longer requires the USNS Comfort for additional hospital capacity.

“We have a tremendous job that we have to get done and put everything else aside and do the job. And that was the tone of the conversation, was very functional and effective,” said Governor Cuomo last night on MSNBC.


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