WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday disavowed any role in a halting and haphazard US response to the novel coronavirus.
"I don't take responsibility at all," Trump said from the White House after declaring a national emergency over the outbreak. He was asked by a reporter about the federal failures to test for the novel coronavirus.
He blamed "rules, regulations, and specifications from a different time" for any shortfalls.
Medical experts, such as Boston University's Sandro Galea, have called the federal response a "fiasco." Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who stood behind Trump at the White House, acknowledged on Thursday that federal testing efforts had failed, leaving everyone, including public health experts, ignorant of the outbreak's true toll nationwide.
"The federal government has consistently underestimated the need for urgency around testing for this virus," Galea told BuzzFeed News.
Later in the press conference, when Trump was asked if he takes any responsibility for his administration disbanding the White House's pandemic office, the president responded by calling the question "nasty."
He also absolved himself of any responsibility, saying, "When you say me, I didn't do it. ... I don't know anything about it."
Across the country this week, public events, including pro sports, have been canceled and schools have temporarily closed. Wall Street is free-falling over the pandemic.
The US now has around 1,700 detected cases of COVID-19, a 30% increase from Thursday.
More than two months into the outbreak, the US only has the capability to perform around 5,000 coronavirus tests a day. A CDC test for the virus approved in early February turned out to be unreliable. Federal authorities only allowed other state and private labs to start providing tests at the end of February.
In his remarks on Friday, Trump also disparaged the Obama administration's response to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. Outside observers noted that the Obama administration had declared a national emergency over that outbreak when it stood at only 20 cases, and that within a month of the pandemic it had performed 1 million tests for the flu bug.