Wednesday, March 18, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He shrugged at the fact that poorer people get worse health care.

Today, two members of Congress announced that they had tested positive for COVID-19. It was also reported that at least two NBA teams and their staff had all received tests. A surprising number of other celebrities and political figures have tested positive as well, and still more—including Trump himself—have been tested because they might have come into contact with people who were infectious, even though they were not showing symptoms.

Politicians and celebrities do more than their fair share of hand-shaking and traveling, and might be slightly overrepresented in the infected population. But a more likely explanation for the number of famous victims of COVID-19 is that it takes a great deal of influence to get a test, at least in the United States. Trump has repeatedly lied about the number of tests available since the shortage (unique to the United States) became apparent, falsely claiming that anyone who wanted a test could get one when the United States was only testing a few thousand patients per day.

Today, Trump was asked about seemingly healthy NBA players being tested while sick Americans in emergency rooms went without.

Q: How are non-symptomatic professional athletes getting tests while others are waiting in line and can’t get them?  Do the well-connected go to the front of the line? 
TRUMP:  Well, that — you’d have to ask them that question.  I mean, they — I — I’ve read — 
Q:  Should that happen? 
TRUMP: No, I wouldn’t say so, but perhaps that’s been the story of life.  That does happen on occasion.  And I’ve noticed where some people have been tested fairly quickly.

Trump's shrug at the chancy availability of coronavirus tests came the day after he praised West Virginia for being the last state to report a positive test. At the time, West Virginia—a poor state with a weak health-care system—had only conducted 137 tests total.

Why does this matter?

  • Rich and influential people getting preferential treatment during a disease outbreak might be "the story of life," but it's also the sort of thing presidents are supposed to think is bad.