WASHINGTON—Banking and financial services executives told President Trump that his administration needed to dramatically increase the availability of coronavirus testing before the public would be confident enough to return to work, eat at restaurants or shop in retail establishments, according to people familiar with the matter.
The push for more testing came in the first of four Wednesday phone calls that Mr. Trump held with business executives on his newly formed task force to reopen the economy. The president has been intensely focused on the topic amid increasingly dire economic data; Wednesday brought reports that retail sales and U.S. industrial production dropped dramatically in March.
No potential dates for easing coronavirus restrictions were discussed, and no follow-up meeting was scheduled. The task force, known formally as the Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups, includes more than 200 business and political leaders, who have been divided into smaller groups based on their industry.
The people involved in the first call, which included executives from banking, financial services, food and beverage, hospitality and retail industries, described current testing levels in the U.S. as inadequate to effectively reopen the economy.
Some executives suggested that they were attempting to secure their own virus testing kits for employees and possibly customers as well, the people said
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the administration’s leading infectious disease specialist, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that the country wasn’t yet ready to reopen because of a lack of testing and virus tracking.
Asked about Dr. Fauci’s comments on Tuesday, the president said, “I don’t know what he said. Nobody knows,” adding that “there is tremendous testing and the governors will use whatever testing is necessary—and if they’re not satisfied with their testing, they shouldn’t open.”
In the first meeting of President Trump’s task force to reopen the economy, banking and financial services executives said the administration needed to dramatically increase the availability of coronavirus testing before the public would be confident enough to return to work.