Updated at 5:39 p.m. ET
President Trump, widely criticized for his administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic, tried to shift blame Friday to his predecessor's handling of a health crisis 11 years ago.
In a series of tweets Friday morning, Trump accused former President Barack Obama of making unspecified changes that "complicated" the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention's testing system.
Trump falsely charged the Obama administration's response to the H1N1 swine flu outbreak as a "full scale disaster, with thousands dying, and nothing meaningful done to fix the testing problem, until now."
.... Their response to H1N1 Swine Flu was a full scale disaster, with thousands dying, and nothing meaningful done to fix the testing problem, until now. The changes have been made and testing will soon happen on a very large scale basis. All Red Tape has been cut, ready to go!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2020
Trump has, on numerous occasions, accused the Obama administration of implementing a rule change that complicated testing. However, no such rule was ever put in place, according to FactCheck.org.
Coronavirus testing has been a key point of criticism of the Trump administration, with testing only becoming widespread in the U.S. this week, and kits remain in limited supply.
Trump announced Friday in a tweet that "testing will soon happen on a very large scale basis. All Red Tape has been cut, ready to go!"
He appeared to be referring to an announcement that the Department of Health and Human Services has awarded grants to two companies developing tests that can show results in under an hour. These tests, however, won't be available for about six to 12 weeks.
The administration also appointed a federal coordinator to oversee testing.
In a news conference Friday afternoon, Deborah Birx, who has been tasked with helping the administration coordinate its response to the coronavirus, said there has been "intense effort" put into "bringing the availability of these quality coronaviral testing to the American people at unprecedented speed."
"I understand that a lot of this behind-the-scenes action in the last couple of weeks was invisible to the press and the American people," said Birx, who is an internationally recognized HIV/AIDS expert.
Trump also defended his administration's actions on testing in the news conference.
Asked whether he took responsibility for the apparent lag in widespread testing, Trump said, "No, I don't take responsibility at all because we were given a — a set of circumstances, and we were given rules, regulations and specifications from a different time."
He again raised the comparison to swine flu, arguing, "They didn't do testing like this."
According to a CDC estimate, there were more than 60 million swine flu cases reported in the U.S. between April 2009 — when the disease was first detected in California — and April 2010, with more than 12,000 people dying.
The agency said the first case was reported on April 15, 2009, and the government declared H1N1 a public health emergency on the April 26. The first test to detect the new virus was approved by the FDA two days later. Shipments of the new CDC test began May 1.
The Trump campaign on Friday also lashed out at former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump's potential opponent in the 2020 election, accusing him of showing "terrible judgment and incompetence in the face of public health issues."
The campaign may have been referring to remarks Biden made in April 2009, when he said on NBC's Today show, "I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now." His comments appeared out of line with official recommendations at the time.