Fact Check Update: U.S. Never Rejected WHO Coronavirus Tests; They Were Never Offered

Former Vice President Joe Biden, participates in a Democratic presidential primary debate at CNN Studios in Washington, Sunday, March 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

CLAIM: The World Health Organization (WHO) offered the U.S. coronavirus tests and we refused them.

VERDICT: False. They were never offered to the U.S., and the U.S. typically does not accept WHO tests.

When former Vice President Joe Biden made this claim in the Democrat debate on Sunday night, Breitbart News initially rated it “true,” focusing on the question of whether the U.S. had declined to use WHO tests. That is true.

What is not true, as Politifact pointed out Monday, is that the U.S. rejected the tests, because they were never offered in the first place — not for donation, or sale, or in any other way.

Biden claimed: “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.” But that is wrong.

Politifact’s Jon Greenberg and Victoria Knight explained (original links):

The Biden campaign referred us to a Politico article that said the WHO shipped coronavirus tests to nearly 60 countries at the end of February, but the U.S. was not among them. That is technically correct, but it suggests that the United States would have been on the list under any circumstances.

The countries WHO helped are ones that lack the virology lab horsepower that exists across the United States. The outreach work by the Pan American Health Organization is a case in point.

“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.”

In this instance, this caused a lag in testing for the virus in the U.S.

So Biden was technically correct — in the narrow sense — about the U.S. not using WHO tests.

But he was incorrect about the tests being offered.

There was no way to know, ahead of time, that the rapid spread of the disease, and technical glitches in the test design, meant that the U.S. would suffer a delay in testing.

As Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted Tuesday morning, it was no one’s fault in particular that the U.S. test failed.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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