Friday, March 6, 2020

What Trump Did Today will resume posting on Tuesday, March 10.

What did Donald Trump do today?

He lied about coronavirus tests being available.

Trump took a tour of the CDC today. A self-described "germophobe," he briefly canceled the visit when a CDC worker was suspected of having been exposed to the coronavirus, before rescheduling after taking political heat. (Trump has encouraged people to go to work even if they are sick, which is exactly what doctors and public health officials are begging people not to do.)

After the tour, Trump said this to reporters:

But — but I think — I think, importantly: Anybody right now and yesterday — anybody that needs a test gets a test. We — they’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful. Anybody that needs a test gets a test. 
If there’s a doctor that wants to test, if there’s somebody coming off a ship — like the big monster ship that’s out there right now, which, you know — again, that’s a big decision. Do I want to bring all those people on? People would like me to do that. I don’t like the idea of doing it. 
But anybody that needs a test can have a test. They’re all set. They have them out there.

This is a lie. Tests continue to be in desperately short supply, thanks to the Trump administration's decision not to use the World Health Organization test developed in the early days of the outbreak. The American version was flawed at first and misidentified sick people as not infected, allowing them to spread the virus to others.

It is not true that everyone who wants or needs to be tested can be. Even most of the patients on the "big monster ship" Trump referenced, who are in quarantine, have not been tested. Only 41 out of 3,500 people aboard were able to get tested as of late today—26 of whom were infected—meaning that evacuation of the rest will be delayed indefinitely.

The lack of working, readily available tests in the United States is exactly why the virus has spread almost entirely unchecked here in the last few weeks. It also means that the actual magnitude of the outbreak in the United States won't become clear until it's effectively too late to prevent its spread in specific areas.

Why does this matter?

  • Lies about this sort of thing will lead to more people getting sick.
  • The highest priority in a disease outbreak is getting Americans trustworthy, reliable information even if it's not what would be best for the president politically.