WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump took to the Rose Garden on the eve of his first debate with Joe Biden to reiterate an announcement from last month of a federal plan to distribute millions of rapid coronavirus diagnostic tests to states.
A shipment of 6.5 million tests is expected to go out this week to states as part of a $760 million contract the administration announced last month on the final day of the Republican National Convention.
While deaths and hospitalizations have been declining from the surge in cases during July and August, an average of more than 700 people a day continue to die from the virus. New cases have remained at around 40,000 a day, a level that concerns public health officials heading into the cooler fall months, when Americans will be spending more time indoors and the influenza virus starts circulating. Several Midwestern states, including Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri, have had spikes in their numbers of cases in recent weeks.
"The American people should anticipate that cases will rise in the days ahead," Vice President Mike Pence said, adding, "We are ready."
The coronavirus will be one of six topics covered at Tuesday night's debate; Trump's handling of the pandemic has been one of his weakest points with voters — just 41 percent approve of his response, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll conducted last week. Trump has said that's a result of poor public relations on his part rather than of his actions responding to the crisis.
In total, 100 million rapid tests are expected to eventually be distributed to states. Trump said Monday that he is pushing governors to use the tests to reopen schools, but governors will ultimately be able to decide how they are deployed.
"One hundred million rapid point-of-care tests will be given to states and territories to support efforts to reopen their economies and schools immediately and as fast as they can," Trump said. "The support my administration is providing will allow every state on a very regular basis to test every teacher who needs it."