I was looking at CNN's fact check titled: Fact check: Trump falsely claims he 'inherited' the faulty coronavirus test. It was developed this year (Archive).
I won't bury the lede. President Trump's language is imprecise. But, he could have inherited faulty testing agents.
Here's what CNN says:
In March, Trump initially made a debatable claim that he had inherited a flawed testing "system." By the final days of March and the first days of April, however, he was making a demonstrably inaccurate claim about inheriting the actual tests.
He did indeed say that, 4 times. Finally, here's the author's claim:
The faulty initial test for the coronavirus was created during Trump's administration, in early 2020, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since this is a new virus that was first identified this year, the tests couldn't possibly be "old" or "obsolete."
That makes sense, right? And, he has quotes from 3 "experts". But, reading through it, it felt like BS to me. That's the same argument I used when I had no valid argument about 2 weeks ago. So, to what might President Trump have been referring?
The CDC (Archive) test is a "Reverse Transcriptase (RT)-PCR Diagnostic Panel" which was also used for MERS (another coronavirus in 2014). The test uses various reagents (that is, additional chemicals used in the analysis of samples). And, sure enough there were bad reagents. From MIT Technology Review (Archive):
On February 5 the CDC began to send out coronavirus test kits, but many of the kits were soon found to have faulty negative controls (what shows up when coronavirus is absent), caused by contaminated reagents. This was probably a side effect of a rushed job to put the kits together. Labs with failed negative controls had to ship their samples to the CDC itself for testing.
FDA issued the EUA on February 4, 2020. IRR began distribution of the test kits to states, but shortly thereafter performance issues were identified related to a problem in the manufacturing of one of the reagents which led to laboratories not being able to verify the test performance. CDC is remanufacturing the reagents with more robust quality control measures. New tests will be distributed once this issue has been addressed. CDC continues to perform initial and confirmatory testing.
I think the question about this one comes down to: what was the problem? We don't really know. We do know that there were issues related to the test kits that could have gone back to the prior administration. It seems unlikely it was a CDC issue because it only affected some states (CNN). Without knowing this, however, we cannot unequivocally call the President's claim false.