New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, suggesting that “wealthy and powerful” individuals have better access to tests for the deadly virus in the U.S.
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“South Korea has up to 10,000 tests per day,” Ocasio-Cortez said during an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier. “They’ve been able to provide tests to any single person that wants it, and here people are scrambling. It almost seems like the more wealthy and powerful you are, the more able you are to access a test. But the rougher road you’ve got here, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to access health care. That’s exactly a recipe for disaster in a pandemic.”
South Korea has more than 7,800 cases of the virus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19, but reports of new cases appear to have slowed after weeks of intensive monitoring for infections. According to The New York Times, the country has tested more than 235,000 people, while health officials have carefully tracked down people who may have symptoms, testing more than 10,000 people daily. The government also opened drive-through testing centers.
About 1,700 people in the U.S. have tested positive for the virus, a number that’s expected to grow in the coming days and weeks. Lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle have criticized the lag in testing in the U.S. compared to other countries. According to Politico, the U.S. has tested about 10,000 people so far.
Earlier this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told lawmakers that the U.S. health system isn’t “geared to what we need right now.”
“It is ... failing, let's admit it,” Fauci, one of the country’s top health officials, said. “The way people in other countries are doing it, we're not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes, but we're not.”
On Friday, the Trump administration moved to speed up screening for the virus, including introducing an emergency hotline for private laboratories and partnerships with companies developing tests that can detect the virus within an hour. The Department of Health and Human Services will give more than $1 million to two companies, DiaSorin Molecular and Qiagen, to speed up the development of the tests, the department said on Friday morning.
Ocasio-Cortez, a rising star in the Democratic Party, also questioned whether the U.S. health care system is the “best in the world.”
“That’s something that’s up for debate,” she said.
A surrogate for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez is a proponent of Medicare-for-all, the single-payer health care system, and has used the coronavirus outbreak to make the case for universal coverage.
“I can’t tell you how many times the people who handle your food - who are already overworked & underpaid - show up sick to work because our country refuses to guarantee healthcare or paid sick leave,” she wrote in a recent tweet.
House Democrats and the White House neared a deal on Friday that would temporarily grant paid sick leave to U.S. workers and provide free testing.