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Trump attacks CDC over coronavirus preparedness, though he eliminated an office dedicated to pandemic prevention

President Trump.
President Trump.Bloomberg

President Trump on Friday morning attacked the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a federal agency he oversees, over the slow federal response to the coronavirus outbreak, and he attempted to lay blame for the lack of testing on his predecessors despite having disbanded a White House office focused on pandemic preparedness.

The tweets came as Trump faced criticism for a lack of testing capacity across the nation, with doctors reporting that they cannot test patients they suspect of having the virus. Trump has repeatedly claimed that testing has gone smoothly, and falsely said last week that anyone who wants a test can get one.

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Trump suggested that his predecessors did not take adequate steps to prepare for a pandemic, but a former top Obama adviser expressed disbelief at that notion in a tweet Friday.

Trump did in fact abolish a White House office created in the wake of the Ebola crisis.

“Not to relitigate the past, but in 2018 President Trump abolished the White House office on pandemic preparedness, so there was a whole bunch of people who were supposed to be getting ready for this event, and we got rid of them. That didn’t help,” Ron Klain, an Obama official who oversaw the response to the 2014 Ebola crisis primarily in West Africa, told New York magazine this week.

In a Washington Post op-ed, a former head of the pandemic office said she was “mystified” about why it was eliminated.

“Our job was to be the smoke alarm — keeping watch to get ahead of emergencies, sounding a warning at the earliest sign of fire — all with the goal of avoiding a six-alarm blaze,” Beth Cameron said.

The Trump administration said Friday morning it was awarding $1.3 million in federal money to two companies trying to develop rapid COVID-19 tests that could detect within an hour whether a person is infected with the new coronavirus.

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The US Department of Health and Human Services said it is awarding $679,000 to DiaSorin Molecular, of Cypress, Calif., and $598,000 to QIAGEN LLC of Germantown, Md., to accelerate development of the tests.

The agency said DiaSorin could potentially be ready within six weeks for consideration by the US Food and Drug Administration, and the QIAGEN test could be ready within 12 weeks for consideration by the FDA.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.


Christina Prignano can be reached at christina.prignano@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @cprignano.