Joe Biden is stepping up his attacks on the Trump administration's coronavirus testing management, saying Wednesday that "the crisis in Arizona is the direct result of Donald Trump's failure to lead and his desire to 'slow the testing down,' and Americans are suffering the consequences."
Biden specifically called for the White House to "immediately resume operating federally-managed community-based testing around the country and establish multiple sites in Arizona." And, in recent weeks, Biden has demanded that Trump "speed up the testing" nationwide, saying Trump has been "putting politics ahead of the safety and economic well-being of the American people."
However, during the 2009 swine flu pandemic, the Obama administration suddenly told states to shut down their testing, without providing much in the way of explanation. And, Biden's top advisor at the time has acknowledged that the Obama administration didn't do "anything right" to combat that pandemic, before walking back those comments.
The record seemingly complicates Biden's claims, in advertising and speeches, that he would have handled state-level coronavirus testing more effectively than the current White House.
"In late July, the CDC abruptly advised states to stop testing for H1N1 flu, and stopped counting individual cases," CBS News reported in 2009. "The rationale given for the CDC guidance to forego testing and tracking individual cases was: why waste resources testing for H1N1 flu when the government has already confirmed there's an epidemic?"
Reporter Sharyl Attkisson continued: "Some public health officials privately disagreed with the decision to stop testing and counting, telling CBS News that continued tracking of this new and possibly changing virus was important because H1N1 has a different epidemiology, affects younger people more than seasonal flu and has been shown to have a higher case fatality rate than other flu virus strains."
CBS News reported that the decision to "stop counting H1N1 flu cases was made so hastily that states weren't given the opportunity to provide input."
The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to an after-hours email from Fox News seeking comment.
According to the CDC, "as 2009 H1N1 cases continued to occur through the spring and summer, the task of counting cases became increasingly difficult. On May 12, 2009, CDC transitioned from reporting individual confirmed and probable cases of 2009 H1N1 influenza to reporting aggregate counts of 2009 H1N1 lab confirmed and probable cases, hospitalizations and deaths with the launch of an aggregate reporting web site. Once the numbers of cases increased beyond the point where counting of individual cases was practical, on July 23, 2009, CDC reported the number of 2009 cases for the last time."
Ron Klain, who served as Biden's chief of staff in 2009 and currently advises him on health matters, remarked last year: “It is purely a fortuity that this isn’t one of the great mass casualty events in American history. It had nothing to do with us doing anything right. It just had to do with luck. If anyone thinks that this can’t happen again, they don’t have to go back to 1918, they just have to go back to 2009, 2010 and imagine a virus with a different lethality, and you can just do the math on that.”
Klain has since backtracked, claiming he was only talking about vaccine difficulties.
Some of Biden's other attacks on the president's coronavirus efforts have also been seemingly undercut in recent months. Within hours of President Trump's decision to restrict travel from China on Jan. 31, Biden and top Democrats immediately derided the move as unnecessary and xenophobic -- and they then beat a hasty retreat from that position as the coronavirus continues to ravage the economy and cause scores of deaths.
Biden quickly attacked what he called Trump's "record of hysteria, xenophobia and fear-mongering" after the travel restrictions were announced, and argued that Trump "is the worst possible person to lead our country through a global health emergency." Biden later changed his mind on the travel ban; and he has since said he wasn't talking about the travel ban specifically when he condemned Trump's "xenophobia."
Still, Trump's own words concerning coronavirus testing have been used against him in recent days. Trump in a rally in Tulsa, Okla., last month touted his administration's response to the coronavirus crisis. As he addressed what he called a "phenomenal" job by himself -- an assessment critics dispute -- the president lamented that as the nation has increased the availability of coronavirus tests, a higher gross number of tests are coming back positive.
"So I said to my people, slow the testing down, please," Trump said. "They test and they test. We had tests that people don't know what's going on. ... We got another one over here. The young man's 10 years old. He's got the sniffles. He'll recover in about 15 minutes. That's a case."
White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro said the comments were "tongue in cheek" on CNN.
"Our Coronavirus testing is so much greater (25 million tests) and so much more advanced, that it makes us look like we have more cases, especially proportionally, than other countries," Trump tweeted, apparently trying to underscore the serious message behind comments.
The comments became their own story out of the whirlwind and controversial rally. Time, for example, ran a story headlined, "At Tulsa Rally, Trump Suggests U.S. Slow Down Coronavirus Testing to Avoid Bad Statistics."
But Trump has mentioned in the past that the more people test positive for the coronavirus, the worse it makes the crisis look, despite the fact that experts have said a robust testing system is necessary for the nation to fully get back to normal in the wake of the pandemic.
And his administration has been largely behind the push to quickly increase testing capacity in the U.S. as part of what Trump called a "phenomenal" response to the crisis.
Fox News' Tyler Olson and Edmund DeMarche contributed to this report.