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‘Screaming matches’ erupted in the White House as HHS sought to override FDA on COVID tests: report

President Donald J. Trump listens as Dr. Stephen Hahn, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, delivers remarks at a coronavirus (COVID-19) update briefing Friday, April 24, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

Things were so tense in the White House that COVID-19 briefings and government coordination efforts would devolve into screaming matches, according to a report from Politico.


The global pandemic led to disastrous consequences for the country as Americans continue to flounder to save themselves. Meanwhile, anti-mask conspiracy theorists are flocking to President Donald Trump’s events, spreading the virus more.

In late August, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar decided to go at it alone as the Food and Drug Administration continued to follow long-standing guidelines on coronavirus testing.

“Overriding objections from FDA chief Stephen Hahn, Azar revoked the [FDA’s] ability to check the quality of tests developed by individual labs for their own use, according to seven current and former administration officials with knowledge of the decision,” the report said.

Some “lab-developed” tests are available for a range of diseases with no real guarantee if they are safe and accurate. But Azar wanted more testing availability, even it if means junk-tests being put on the market.

“Hahn viewed the move as inappropriate and ill-timed because it removed safeguards designed to prevent inaccurate tests from flooding the market during a public health crisis,” said the report.

False positives can lead to wasting critical time for health specialists who should be doing contact tracing on others with the virus. But false-negatives give people a sense of security that they can go out in the world without taking precautions.

Nearly a dozen Trump administration staffers, past and current, recalled the fight between Azar and the FDA being “so intense that it boiled over into screaming matches.”

The “FDA’s device chief, Jeff Shuren, was cut out of crucial HHS meetings leading up the policy shift,” the report also said.

Read the full report from Politico.

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