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PolitiFact slaps Joe ​Biden with ‘mostly false’ rating for claiming that the US ‘refused’ WHO coronavirus tests

'No discussions occurred between WHO and CDC about WHO providing COVID-19 tests to the United States'

SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Left-leaning fact-checking website PolitiFact called out Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden with a "mostly false" rating over a recent claim that the United States "refused" to accept coronavirus testing kits offered by the World Health Organization.

Biden made the claim during Sunday night's Democratic presidential primary debate against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in response to a question about President Donald Trump's handling of the current coronavirus outbreak.

"President Trump says he does not take any responsibility for the problems with coronavirus testing, in part because he says he inherited so many rules, regulations, and red tape," debate moderator Jake Tapper said to the former vice president, according to a Rev transcript. "Did bureaucratic red tape hamper this response in any way?"

"No; look, the World Health Organization offered, offered the testing kits that they have available and to give it to us now," Biden responded.

"We refused them. We did not want to buy them. We did not want to get them from them. We wanted to make sure we had our own," Biden continued. "I think [Trump] said something like, 'We have the best scientists in America,' or something to that effect."

When PolitiFact reached out to the Biden campaign on the claim, the fact-checker says the campaign pointed to a story published earlier this month at Politico, which said that the U.S wasn't among the 60 countries to which the WHO had sent tests by the end of February:

Why the United States declined to use the WHO test, even temporarily as a bridge until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could produce its own test, remains a perplexing question and the key to the Trump administration's failure to provide enough tests to identify the coronavirus infections before they could be passed on, according to POLITICO interviews with dozens of viral-disease experts, former officials and some officials within the administration's health agencies.

However, PolitiFact wrote in a post Monday that the countries helped by the WHO were ones that lacked the same kind of virology lab capabilities that the United States has, and cited work done by the Pan American Health Organization as an example:

The group is WHO's arm in the Americas. It conducted trainings and sent materials to conduct tests to 29 nations. The list included Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and many others.

The group said it focused most of its efforts on "countries with the weakest health systems."

"No discussions occurred between WHO and CDC about WHO providing COVID-19 tests to the United States," said WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris. "This is consistent with experience since the United States does not ordinarily rely on WHO for reagents or diagnostic tests because of sufficient domestic capacity."

The post goes on to explain that Biden's comments leave out context about how different countries chose which kind of test to use, based on multiple different models. Even if the United States had adopted the same testing model of the World Health Organization preferred — which it didn't — the country wouldn't have needed the WHO to send supplies.

While the U.S. didn't try to employ the WHO test model, "Biden's emphasis on WHO offering kits is simply wrong," PolitiFact concludes. "We rate this claim mostly false."

One last thing…
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