White House Promised 27 Million Coronavirus Tests By End of March, But U.S. Just Hit 1 Million

The White House promised an ever-increasing number of coronavirus tests would be available by the end of the month, saying the number of available test kits could be as high as 27 million. But tracking analysts say only about 1 million total tests have been administered nationwide.

During a March 10 coronavirus press briefing, Vice President Mike Pence declared there would be "more than 4 million more tests" available across the country by the end of that week. At the time, lawmakers from both parties disputed these numbers and said that fewer than 10,000 Americans had been tested.

President Donald Trump increased this number just days later during remarks on March 13, when he promised 1.4 million additional tests would be distributed by March 16, which added up to more than 5 million available tests by the end of March. Another White House official would go on to proclaim on March 21 that 27 million test kits would be available to patients before the end of the month.

But several organizations that are meticulously monitoring coronavirus statistics, including the COVID Tracking Project, are demanding answers for the seemingly massive discrepancy. The Tracking Project has recorded that 964,865 total tests were conducted through Tuesday.

According to Tracking Project numbers released March 30, fewer than 1 million total tests, regardless of the results, have been conducted in states across the country. About 113,000 of those were conducted on March 29 alone, and the number of daily tests being taken nationwide rose above 20,000 only on March 18, two days after Trump claimed 5 million would be available nationwide. According to the COVID Tracking Project, the U.S. did not administer more than 100,000 tests in one day until March 25.

Trump was pressed on March 13 about why the administration continued claiming there were millions of tests available when only tens of thousands of people had actually taken them. "I cannot explain the gap," Trump replied during the March 13 press briefing. "I'm hearing very good things on the ground."

The White House referred Newsweek to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for comment Tuesday, but it did not respond before publication.

Several governors have complained for weeks that equipment shortages, competition between states and failed federal government leadership have all factored into the massive discrepancies in coronavirus testing availability. And in perhaps the most striking example of a testing kit data "gap," U.S. Assistant Health Secretary Brett Giroir declared that 10 million test kits were distributed to labs nationwide in the first two weeks of March alone.

Speaking March 21 at the White House, Giroir told reporters that 17 million tests would be added to the 10 million he claimed were already in circulation.

"We promised 1 to 4 million. There's 10 million tests that are in the market now," he said. "But not every lab can run every test, and not every test is self-contained. So the important question is not how many tests are on the market but to make sure that every segment of the market has the kind of tests that they can use."

Simon Rosenberg, head of the New Democrat Network, a liberal think tank, described the vast discrepancy between the White House test kit projections and the number of tests administered as "monstrous BS coming from the White House." He echoed the sentiment of many state leaders and health officials by questioning if some states, such as Florida, were receiving preferential treatment in how tests are being distributed.

Maryland's Republican governor was among those who rejected Trump's Monday claim on a conference call that obtaining tests was no longer a problem. "[That's] just not true," Governor Larry Hogan told NPR.

coronavirus test kit covid-19
The White House has promised an ever-increasing number of coronavirus tests would be available by the end of March, with the number of available test kits as high as 27 million. But tracking data show that only tens of thousands of people have actually taken the tests. PEDRO VILELA / Stringer/Getty Images
White House Promised 27 Million Coronavirus Tests By End of March, But U.S. Just Hit 1 Million | U.S.