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Isn’t it great that US president Donald Trump has solved the problem of increasing COVID-19 infections? His answer is to do less testing. That must be a comfort to the vulnerable such as people with disabilities, those with MS or one of a variety of other health issues, or aged over 60. The following article, written by me, first appeared in The Locus on June 27.
That was the explanation the White House offered when pressed on a comment President Donald Trump made while addressing his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on 20 June.
BBC reported he told the ‘crowd’, a term I use loosely, that he had encouraged officials to slow down testing because it led to the discovery of more cases. He described testing as a “double-edged sword”.
“Here is the bad part: When you do testing to that extent, you are going to find more people, you will find more cases,” he said. “So I said ‘slow the testing down’. They test and they test.”
That’s the sort of excuse an ill-prepared aide comes up with when his boss has opened his mouth and jumped in with both feet. Faced with the choice of admitting the president’s ignorance or claiming he was joking, I’d say the official made the right call.
This anti-testing stance is just one more example of Trump’s unrivalled ability to undertake u-turns without missing a step – he had previously praised the record levels of testing, even using what some may call questionable or misleading statements. I don’t call them that. They are what they are: lies.
Let’s take a look at one claim in particular that falls short of the truth.
On May 12, Trump said the US had tested “more than all countries put together”.
This repeated claim is nonsense. According to the BBC, at that date, the U.S. had carried out 9,974,831 tests.
This is more tests than any country, but certainly does not add up to more than the rest of the world.
In fact, the BBC reports that combining figures from Germany, Russia and the UK is all that’s needed to overtake the US.
Brazenly stretching figures
Exaggeration in politics is, at the best of times, questionable – but brazenly stretching figures in the midst a public health crisis is utterly unacceptable.
Then, on May 14, during a speech at a medical supplies distribution centre, the president called testing “overrated”.
“We have more cases than anybody in the world, but why? Because we do more testing,” Trump said.
“If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases. They don’t want to write that. It’s common sense. We test much more.”
Well, that’s a clear forerunner of what was to come at the Tulsa rally: test fewer people, find fewer cases – the kind of common sense approach you want to see coming out of one of the largest countries on Earth.
Of course, if you do less testing, it will look as though the US has fewer cases. However, many people, some of whom may have voted in Trump’s favour, will get sick and die.
The real number of cases will remain just as high, but hidden from the medical experts who need such information to fight the disease.
The president has arbitrarily flipped from one false statement in support of testing to a second false statement against testing, all the while claiming that his administration has the situation under control.
Not to worry, though: he’s obviously kidding.