WASHINGTON, DC -- President Donald Trump held a late afternoon news conference Monday to unveil what he and his White House task force said was a plan to help states ramp up the kind of widespread testing experts say is needed in order for the economy to reopen.
Appearing with executives of Abbott Labs, CVS pharmacy, and other retailers and commercial labs involved in increasing testing capacity, Trump faced reporters after backlash for floating the idea of injecting disinfectant to treat Covid-19 -- which he later called "sarcasm" -- and then walked out of Friday's briefing without taking questions.
Dr. Deborah Birx and other members of the government response task force outlined how the federal government testing effort would guide the states, many of which have started to reopen, to take advantage of what they claimed was dramatically better testing availability.
Testing is not going to be a problem at all,” Trump said confidently as the task force announced the new guidelines.
He also said governors should consider opening up their school systems as well as businesses, saying he thought it would be a "good thing."
As states continue to roll out plans to reopen their economies, Trump told governors during a Monday phone call that they should also "seriously consider" reopening their schools.
"Some of you might start thinking about school openings. Because a lot of people are wanting to have the school openings. It's not a big subject, young children have done very well in this disaster that we’ve all gone through," Trump told governors, according to a recording of the call obtained by ABC News. "So a lot of people are thinking about the school openings."
The president added the governors should "seriously consider" it and "maybe get going on it."
As the novel coronavirus outbreak spread across the country this year, every U.S. state ordered schools closed or recommended they be shuttered, most through the end of the current academic year.
On April 16, the White House rolled out recommendations for states to roll back social distancing restrictions over three stages, providing they met certain testing, health care and other criteria. The first phase called for some businesses to reopen, while the federal government did not recommend states reopen schools until the second phase.
Asked by ABC News the next day about how parents who are sent back to work should handle child care if schools had yet to open, Trump did not not have an answer.
"I think the schools are going to be open soon," the president said. "I think a lot of governors are already talking about schools being open."
Trump said he hoped his own 14-year-old son would return to school. He added that he thought "the schools are going to be open sooner rather than later."
"I've spoken to some governors who were already talking about thinking about getting the schools open," he said at the time.
During the call, the president, Vice President Mike Pence and senior adviser Jared Kushner discussed a new "testing blueprint" and "testing overview" that was later announced at the news conference.
The two documents, which have been obtained by ABC News, lay out a plan -- broken into eight bullet points, under three categories: launch, scale and support opening up again.
The documents largely summarized steps the administration had already taken, retroactively providing an argument for the White House's decision to push most of the responsibility for scaling up and conducting testing to the states.
"Testing plans and rapid response programs will be federally supported, State managed, and locally executed," the "blueprint" document reads.
A number of state governors have criticized this approach, saying only the federal government has the ability to accelerate testing capacity and coordinate a national testing strategy.