Trump blames ‘Obama rule’ for slow coronavirus response in US

President Trump is blaming former President Barack Obama for a slow start to COVID-19 coronavirus testing — and hailing himself for casting aside an “Obama rule” to speed testing for the virus.

Trump said it was Obama’s fault amid criticism of the slow U.S. testing rollout compared to other countries. He said that he fixed the problem.

“That was a very big move,” Trump said during a Wednesday meeting with airline executives. “It was something we had to do and we did it very quickly. And now we have tremendous flexibility, many many more sites, many many more people, and you couldn’t have had that under the Obama rule and we ended that rule very quickly.”

Spokespeople for the White House and Vice President Mike Pence were unable to provide additional information on the specific regulation. The Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to a request for information.

Pence, Trump’s point person on the coronavirus, and Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, concurred with Trump’s assessment during the airline meeting.

“The last administration asserted FDA jurisdiction over testing, and the development of tests like this,” Pence said. “The president changed that on Saturday… states now have the ability to actually conduct the coronavirus test in state labs, university laboratories, and that’s because of the change the president authorized.”

Redfield said: “In the past, we used to be able to have laboratories that could develop what we call laboratory-developed tests and then be able to apply them for clinical purposes. And in the previous administration that became regulated, so that now for someone to do that they had to formally file with the FDA. And what the president’s decision did was allow that regulatory relief now and those university labs and those other labs in the country now can be fully engaged in developing laboratory diagnostics for the clinical arena.”

According to the FDA, draft guidance for laboratory-developed tests was proposed in 2014, to replace a “policy of enforcement discretion” with regard to cracking down on such tests, where the FDA sometimes chose to intervene and other times not. The framework ultimately was not implemented.

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