Trump Says He Encouraged Increased COVID-19 Infection Testing at HBCUs

President Donald Trump says that he has encouraged increased coronavirus testing at historically black colleges and universities, a measure of his view of the United States’ successful response to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

He made the remarks earlier this evening during a press conference at the White House to discuss plans for deploying a COVID-19 vaccine to the general public, which he says may be ready this fall. From CSPAN:

Question: CAN YOU TALK US THROUGH A BIT MORE ON THE FOCUS TO MINORITIES, AND HOW THAT WOULD WORK? AND THEN FOR YOU MISTER PRESIDENT, YOU MENTIONED A DROPPING THE POVERTY RATE, SPECIFICALLY WE NOTICE THAT THE POVERTY RATE FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS IS AT HISTORIC LOWS. THE HOUSEHOLD WEALTH INCREASE HISTORICALLY AMONG AFRICAN AMERICANS. WHAT WAS DRIVING THAT INCREASE FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS? AND NOW IN 2020 WITH THE CORONAVIRUS, UNEMPLOYMENT SPIKE, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR PLAN?

Coronavirus White House Adviser Scott Atlas: THE HIGH RISK PEOPLE AND FRONTLINE HEALTH CARE WORKERS. JUST TO REITERATE WHAT I SAID, THERE ARE 51,000 OUTLETS FOR DISTRIBUTION FOR VACCINATION. AND THERE'S OVER 14,000 FEDERALLY QUALIFIED HEALTH CENTERS THAT ARE SPECIFICALLY TARGETED TO MINORITY AND LOW INCOME AREAS. THAT'S A FOCUS, I WANT TO POINT OUT TO OTHER THINGS. WE'RE ALSO PRIORITIZING TESTING HISTORICALLY BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES. WE'RE IN THE PROCESS OF GETTING THAT FINALIZED, BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT THERE IS A HIGHER MORBIDITY WITH ETHNIC GROUPS. LAST THING I WOULD SAY, IT'S PARTICULARLY HEINOUS AND EGREGIOUS OF THE USE OF THE MEDIA, TO INSTILL FEAR INTO PEOPLE ABOUT TAKING A VACCINE. BECAUSE THERE IS NO SHORT CUT HERE, EVERYTHING IS SAFE, EVERYTHING IS EFFECTIVE, AND FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE PARTICULARLY INFLUENCED LIKE MINORITY COMMUNITIES, TO INSTILL FEAR AND DOUBT. IS THAT PARTICULARLY OUTRAGEOUS ABUSE OF PUBLIC POLICY, AND OF LEADERSHIP. THESE ARE PEOPLE THAT HAVE -- I EMPLOY EVERYONE IN A HIGH RISK CATEGORY, WHEN WE GET A SAFE EFFECTIVE VACCINE, THEY SHOULD TAKE THE VACCINE.

Trump: …THEY STARTED KNOCKING THE VACCINE AS SOON AS THEY HEARD THAT THIS ACTUALLY MAY COME OUT PRIOR TO ELECTION. IT MAY OR MAY NOT, BUT IT WILL BE WITHIN A MATTER OF WEEKS. IT WILL BE WITHIN A MATTER OF WEEKS FROM NOVEMBER, IT'S READY TO GO, AND IT'S READY FOR MASSIVE DISTRIBUTION TO EVERYBODY. WITH THE FOCUS AGAIN ON SENIORS, I WILL SAY ALSO THE HISTORICALLY BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES. WE ARE DOING -- AT MY SUGGESTION, BECAUSE THEY HAVE HAD A DIFFICULT PROBLEM THERE. WE ARE DOING MORE TESTING THERE, FINER TESTING, MANY OF OUR GREAT APPARATUS THERE. WHEN YOU LOOK AT WHAT WE'VE DONE ON TESTING, IN TERMS OF THE TECHNOLOGY AND THE AMOUNT IT'S BEEN REALLY AMAZING. I THINK WE'RE GOING TO CRACK 100 MILLION TESTS VERY SOON IN THE VERY NEAR FUTURE. WE'RE GOING TO BE CRACKING 100 MILLION TESTS, WHAT THAT DOES DO IT SHOWS THAT MORE CASES. IF WE DIDN'T TEST WE WOULDN'T HAVE CASES, OTHER COUNTRIES DON'T TEST AND THEY DON'T HAVE CASES. AND THEN THEY SAY OH THE UNITED STATES. BUT WE'RE PROUD OF IT, BECAUSE IT SHOWS WHERE THERE MAY BE A PROBLEM, AND IT HELPS PEOPLE. BUT WE'RE DOING TREMENDOUS TESTING AT THE HISTORICALLY BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES. THAT WAS A SUGGESTION I MADE, I THINK IT'S A GOOD SUGGESTION. PLEASE GO AHEAD.

Trump has come under fire in recent days following revelations that he downplayed the severity of the coronavirus earlier this year, promoted against the effectiveness of protective equipment, and has held events which violate social distancing standards set by the Centers for Disease Control.

The remarks on testing at HBCUs come just weeks after Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough and Xavier University of Louisiana President C. Reynold Verret revealed that they were participating in a global coronavirus vaccine trial and encouraged their campus community members to consider signing up.

Last week, the presidents of the nation’s historically Black medical schools wrote a joint op-ed in the New York Times calling for more Black Americans to consider clinical trial participation, and support for the training and access of African American physicians and researchers.

Two of the schools, the Morehouse School of Medicine and Meharry Medical College serve as vaccine trial testing sites.

Researchers and the medical industry should engage the remaining two Black and minority serving medical schools — Charles R. Drew College of Medicine and Howard University College of Medicine — in the vaccine trials now. In addition, the 104 Historically Black Colleges and Universities can serve as credible messengers to distribute information and foster trust in communities throughout the country.

Their involvement should include the recruitment of patients, participation in the science, and development of the plan to distribute the vaccine to the most vulnerable communities. Unlike what happened with the development of antiviral treatment for AIDS, the African-American population should not be last to get access to the lifesaving medication.