Health and Science

New York Gov. Cuomo slams CDC coronavirus response: 'Absurd and nonsensical'

Key Points
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized Friday the federal government's response to the COVID-19 outbreak, calling it "absurd and nonsensical."
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was slow to initially test people for the virus, he said, then "in a tardy fashion" it said states could test.
  • The Trump administration's management of the outbreak isn't just "bad government and poor planning," but it will "increase the fear," Cuomo said.
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo briefing on updates on spread of covid-19 in New York State at NYPA White Plains Office.
Lev Radin | Pacific Press | Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday criticized the federal government's response to the COVID-19 outbreak, calling it "absurd and nonsensical."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was slow to initially test people for the virus, he said, then  "in a tardy fashion" it said states could test. The Trump administration's management of the outbreak isn't just "bad government and poor planning," but it will "increase the fear," Cuomo said.

Local and state officials in areas of the country suffering outbreaks of the new coronavirus have criticized the CDC's testing criteria, lack of tests and poor communication with local health officials. 

"I don't understand the CDC's instructions here on how they think this should work," he said, adding that the CDC has instructed health officials to test as many people as possible. "If the vice president says we don't have sufficient testing capacity, then how are you inviting anyone who thinks they need a test to go get a test?"

Lack of tests

Vice President Mike Pence, who was touring medical equipment maker 3M's facilities in Minnesota on Thursday, told reporters the U.S. doesn't have enough tests "to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward."

Earlier in the outbreak, the CDC sent out test kits to public health labs across the country. CDC officials have since said those kits were defective, and it released new guidance and kits for detecting the virus. Cities and states are now working to ramp up their local capacity for diagnosis so that clinicians don't have to depend on shipping the tests to CDC labs, which can delay the process.

However, the CDC was "slow to approve the use of private labs" to develop local test centers, Cuomo said.

"You cannot manage a public health situation that way," Cuomo said. "If you can only do 100,000 tests, then prioritize the 100,000 people coming in for the test. That's what we're doing. As the capacity grows, then you can change the prioritization."

On Thursday, Cuomo said the state is now testing 100 to 200 people per day. There are currently more than 4,000 people across the state under "precautionary quarantine," Cuomo said Friday. 

Last month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom raised similar concerns about the country's capacity to test for COVID-19. California was monitoring more than 8,400 people, Newsom said, but only had a "few hundred testing kits."

"That's simply inadequate to do justice to the kind of testing that is required to address this issue head on," he said.

$8.3 billion federal response

President Donald Trump on Friday signed a sweeping spending bill to combat the spread of the coronavirus, pumping billions of dollars into prevention efforts and research in hopes of quickly producing a vaccine for the deadly disease.

For states already battling more advanced outbreaks, including California and Washington, the funds should serve as much needed relief. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said Thursday night her state will receive $11.5 million in funding to help its state Department of Health respond to the crisis. The money will go to supporting public lab testing, isolation and quarantine costs, sanitization of public areas and tracking the virus, she said. 

The amount of relief spending isn't much compared with the cost local districts and states are incurring, Cuomo said Thursday. He said New York is expected to receive $35 million in relief from the bill and that the state has already freed up $40 million in funds to combat the outbreak in New York.

Read CNBC's live updates to see the latest news on the COVID-19 outbreak.

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