But governors painted a different picture on the ground.
Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, a Democrat, said that officials in his state were trying to do “contact tracing” — tracking down people who have come into contact with those who have tested positive — but that they were struggling because “we don’t have adequate tests,” according to an audio recording of the conversation obtained by The New York Times.
“Literally we are one day away, if we don’t get test kits from the CDC, that we wouldn’t be able to do testing in Montana,” Bullock said, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The midday call was one of a handful that Trump has held with governors, some of whom have sparred with the president over the federal government’s response to the spread of the coronavirus. Others have calculated that it will be easier to get the needs of their states fulfilled by praising Trump, who seeks credit and affirmation in most interactions.
On the Monday call, Bullock — whose state is heavily rural — tried to stress the disparity Montana faces in trying to mitigate the spread of the virus because of the lack of testing.
Trump initially said that Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, could respond to the question but then quickly offered a rejoinder. “I haven’t heard about testing in weeks,” the president said. “We’ve tested more now than any nation in the world. We’ve got these great tests, and we’re coming out with a faster one this week.” Reiterating his point, Trump added, “I haven’t heard about testing being a problem.”
Although testing has picked up since a series of setbacks left the United States behind, governors have continued to warn in recent days that their response is still hampered by shortages, including of basic supplies like swabs. Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington told CNN on Sunday that “we have a desperate need for the testing kits.” And Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia warned last week that there was a shortage of testing materials in his state.
The president has recently taken to pointing to the volume of tests that have been administered — a misleading figure because, according to health experts, the more relevant figure is how many people are being tested per capita. In that regard, the United States still lags well behind other nations like South Korea.
Other governors also made it clear to Trump that they needed more supplies, if somewhat more delicately. Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina, a Democrat, told Trump, “As much as you can send us is very much appreciated.”
That prompted the president to note that “we have a lot of planes coming in” and that “Boeing gave us their big, monster cargo plane; it’s the biggest cargo plane in the world.”
At another point in the call, when someone asked if the governor of Utah was on the line, Trump cracked that he was probably visiting Mitt Romney, the state’s junior senator who has been in quarantine after coming into contact with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who tested positive for coronavirus.
And at the daily White House briefing Monday afternoon, Trump described the call as an opportunity for the governors to thank his administration.
“I think for the most part, they were saying, thank you for doing a great job,” he said.
Meanwhile, Inslee said Monday that he was shocked to hear the president convey a lack of awareness about testing concerns and that he was hopeful the president would look into the issue.
“It would be shocking to me that if anyone who has had access to any newspaper, radio, social networks or any other communication would not be knowledgeable about the need for test kits,” Inslee said. “I can be assured that the White House knows very well about this desperate need for test kits.”
Inslee said his state was facing a “dire” shortage of kits, leaving a choke point in an effort to ramp up testing.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times .