MSNBC host presses Fauci on lack of COVID tests: 'Isn't the administration behind the curve?'

Andrea Mitchell: 'The testing shortages are profound'

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MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell pressed Dr. Anthony Fauci Tuesday on the Biden administration being "behind the curve" as it tries to address the lack of rapid coronavirus tests available to Americans.

Mitchell called the testing shortages "profound" as the United States grapples with the highly transmissible omicron variant of coronavirus. Images of long lines for coronavirus tests are causing flashbacks for Americans to the effective start of the pandemic in March 2020.

"The testing shortages are profound, I don't need to tell you, even for people who fortunately can pay for it and go commercially. They’re just not available," Mitchell said. "The drugstores don’t have them. The commercial locations don’t have appointments ready because it's a holiday week, and we all should have anticipated this. I know the president is making a big announcement today, but isn’t the administration behind the curve on being prepared to ship about 500 million free home tests when we need them now?"

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during the daily briefing at the White House on Dec. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File) 

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during the daily briefing at the White House on Dec. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File) 

"We’re going to hopefully quickly catch up with that curve, Andrea," Fauci said.

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Fauci said the Defense Production Act would be implemented and there would be a website where Americans could order one to have delivered free to their homes, but he acknowledged there were many areas in the U.S. where it wasn't easy to get an immediate test.

"Hopefully that will be rapidly corrected," he said.

Biden spoke Tuesday about the omicron surge in the U.S. and reiterated the government would purchase 500 million rapid tests for distribution to Americans. However, those tests will not be available to most people ahead of Christmas on Saturday, as families and friends weigh whether to gather as virus cases skyrocket.

President Joe Biden salutes as he steps from Marine One upon his return to the White House on Dec. 20, 2021.

President Joe Biden salutes as he steps from Marine One upon his return to the White House on Dec. 20, 2021. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki mocked the notion of sending free tests to Americans earlier this month.

"Why not just make them free … and have them available everywhere?" asked NPR reporter Mara Liasson. 

"Should we just send one to every American?" Psaki responded sarcastically. When Liasson said that would be a good idea, Psaki pushed back.

"Then what happens … if every American has one test? How much does that cost, and then what happens after that?" she asked.

Press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House on Dec. 21, 2021. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House on Dec. 21, 2021. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

One reporter asked Biden after he spoke Tuesday if the testing shortage was a "failure" for the administration.

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"No, it's not, because COVID is spreading so rapidly … It just happened almost overnight," Biden said.

Fox News' Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.