Biden accused Trump of turning down WHO testing kit for COVID-19; one problem

Biden accused Trump of turning down WHO testing kit for COVID-19; one problem
CBS News video

How much do Democrats want Joe Biden to be their nominee? The correct question is “how much do Democrats not want Bernie Sanders to be their nominee?” But the answer is the same: So much that one news station aired the results of Tuesday night’s primaries before voters even went to the polls.

For another indicator, take a look at the fact checks following last Sunday’s debate. In particular pay attention to the media’s reaction to this Biden claim:

To fix the Trump testing fiasco, I will authorize the World Health Organization that has offered us testing capacity, which we turned down. I will immediately take advantage of their offer.

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The New York Times evaluated Biden’s claim as true, writing:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did decide to develop its own coronavirus test, despite the existence of one already created by the World Health Organization. As The New York Times reported, the federal government “designed its own test as it typically does during an outbreak.” That test, however, produced faulty results and ultimately delayed local public health departments’ ability to test a large number of patients for the novel disease. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization made its test widely available, and more than 60 countries decided to use that product.

CNN had this to say:

Biden is correct. The US, along with other countries, chose not to take test kits from WHO — and instead decided to make their own.

That decision by the US government not to take the WHO test kits has come under scrutiny as testing has been slow to roll out across the country and due to some early failures to verify those tests at other laboratories in the US. On February 12, the Center for Disease Control reported that some of the coronavirus test kits shipped to labs across the country were not working as they should.

As of Sunday, almost two months after the coronavirus was first detected in the US, 22,713 specimens had been tested in the US. Experts have criticized the country’s seeming inability to produce more tests.

But Kaiser Health News ran a fact check of its own and found that Biden’s claim was “mostly false.” Their explanation:

The countries WHO helped are ones that lack the virology lab horsepower that exists across the United States. The outreach work by the Pan American Health Organization is a case in point.

The group is WHO’s arm in the Americas. It conducted trainings and sent materials to conduct tests to 29 nations. The list included Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and many others.

The group said it focused most of its efforts on “countries with the weakest health systems.”

No discussions occurred between WHO and CDC about WHO providing COVID-19 tests to the United States,” said WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris. “This is consistent with experience since the United States does not ordinarily rely on WHO for reagents or diagnostic tests because of sufficient domestic capacity.”

According to interviews with several infectious-disease experts, Biden’s statement leaves out context about how countries decided on which test they’d use to identify the presence of the coronavirus. [Emphasis added]

In short, Biden’s accusation is wrong because the test kits were never offered.

Neither CNN nor the New York Times has bothered to print a retraction or correction.

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles is a freelance writer and regular contributor to "Liberty Unyielding."

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