Donald Trump has accused Democrats of playing “a very dangerous political game” by insisting there is a shortage of tests for coronavirus.
The president hit out as vice president Mike Pence told governors the federal government was working around the clock to help them ramp up testing.
Mr Pence sought to soften the Trump administration’s message amid growing clamour from the states for a national testing strategy to help secure in-demand supplies like testing swabs and chemical reagents.
“When it comes to testing, we’re here to help,” Mr Pence told governors during a video conference from the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
He said the administration sent an email to officials in each state on Monday detailing testing capacity by state, but Maryland’s Republican governor Larry Hogan said much of the unused lab machinery listed for his state by the administration was in federal labs that the state does not have access to.
Mr Pence agreed to open up federal labs to help states.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump took to Twitter with a more combative tone, complaining that the “radical left” and “Do Nothing Democrats” were playing politics with their complaints about a lack of tests.
The president has in recent days repeatedly compared governors’ concerns about a lack of screening capacity to earlier complaints that the states did not have enough ventilators to keep up with the federal government’s projections of individuals who would be admitted to hospital during the outbreak.
“Now they scream ….’Testing, Testing, Testing,’ again playing a very dangerous political game,” Mr Trump tweeted.
“States, not the Federal Government, should be doing the Testing – But we will work with the Governors and get it done. This is easy compared to the fast production of thousands of complex Ventilators!”
Public health experts say the country needs to dramatically increase its testing infrastructure if it is going to safely roll back restrictions and reopen businesses without risking a major spike in infections that would negate weeks of social distancing and economic strife.
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said on Monday that the country is running about 1.5 million to 2 million tests per week, but needs to reach “maybe two times that, three times that”.
Administration officials have insisted the US has enough testing capacity to safely implement Phase One of a plan they released last week to begin a slow return to normality. And they have argued that states could be running twice as many tests as they are if they were using all the equipment they have access to.