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Analysis: You won't believe what Donald Trump just said about coronavirus testing

Here’s the exchange:
Reporter: President Trump, you’ve said many times that the number of coronavirus cases is going up because testing is increasing.
Trump: That’s right.
Reporter: Do you acknowledge that it’s going up for other reasons too; for example, that it’s actually spreading? And what are you going to do to stop the spread?
Trump: Well, you know that we have one of the lowest mortality rates anywhere. If you know, [former Vice President Joe] Biden and [former President Barack] Obama stopped their testing; they just stopped it. You probably know that. I’m sure you don’t want to report it. But they stopped testing. Right in the middle, they just went, “No more testing,” and on a much lesser problem than the problem that we have, obviously with respect to — this is the worst thing that’s happened since probably 1917. This is a very bad — all over the world. It’s 188 countries right now.
But, no, we are — we test more than anybody, by far. And when you test, you create cases. So we’ve created cases. I can tell you some countries, they test when somebody walks into a hospital sick or walks into maybe a doctor’s office, but usually a hospital. That’s the testing they do, so they don’t have cases, whereas we do — we have all of these cases. So, you know, it’s a double-edged sword.
There’s just so many things wrong there. Let’s go through them.
1) The US does not have the lowest mortality rate “anywhere.” In fact, according to data from Johns Hopkins, the gold standard when it comes to the coronavirus information, the United States has the seventh highest mortality rate of any country. So, yeah.
2) The Obama administration did not just stop testing for H1N1. While the comparison, which Trump loves to make, between swine flu and Covid-19 is totally misguided (one killed 12,000 Americans, the other has already killed more than 135,000), the President is also wrong about his facts. As CNN’s Holmes Lybrand wrote way back in March:
“The CDC’s summary report of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic outlines how tests were administered at the time. The virus was first detected in the US on April 15. The CDC informed the World Health Organization about initial cases April 18. A test to detect this strain of swine flu was developed by the CDC and cleared for use 10 days later, on April 28, and the CDC began shipping tests across the US and around the world on May 1.
“Within the next four months, more than 1 million tests ‘were shipped to 120 domestic and 250 international laboratories in 140 countries,’ according to the CDC’s report.
“By May 18, 40 states were authorized to conduct their own 2009 H1N1 testing, with eight states having multiple laboratories that could process the tests, the report says.”

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3) You don’t “create” cases by testing. The notion that testing somehow creates cases rather than simply identifying them is truly remarkable. Of course, it’s not the first time that Trump has argued that he is kind of, sort of against more transparency and testing — because it makes the number of coronavirus cases increase. Remember that way back in early March, Trump was opposed to allowing American passengers exposed to coronavirus on a ship docked in San Francisco getting off the ship.
“I’d rather have the people stay, but I’d go with them,” he said. “I told them to make the final decision. I would rather because I like the numbers being where they are. I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.”
4) Testing is not the reason we have more cases. As CNN’s Ryan Struyk noted on July 7, there has been a 37% increase in average daily testing in the US. Over that same time there has been a 152% increase in average daily cases. And, with cases spiking even higher in Florida, Texas and Arizona since July 7, that gap has only widened.
What Trump is doing — and has been doing for months now — is ignoring the available data when it comes to testing and confirmed cases because it doesn’t fit his narrative. And, whether you think that the Obama administration handled the H1N1 flu crisis well or poorly, it has zero relevance to whether or not more widespread testing is the sole reason for why we have seen such an increase in coronavirus cases of late. (As I noted above, testing has not increased anywhere near as much as the numbers of cases.)
This is all blame-shifting and distraction on Trump’s part — plain and simple. He’s wrong on the facts about testing. Comparisons to what Obama did with swine flu are pointless because they do nothing to solve the current crisis. The virus isn’t political. It infects Republicans and Democrats. Trump still hasn’t grasped that reality.

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