Wednesday, March 25, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He bragged about testing for COVID-19 more than South Korea, but forgot a few important details.

For weeks now, Trump has been insisting, all evidence to the contrary, that the United States had adequate testing for COVID-19. For example, on March 6—when the United States had processed about 3,000 total tests, or roughly 10 per million Americans—Trump claimed that "anybody who wants a test gets a test." Today, he compared the U.S. testing capacity to South Korea, which actually has largely contained its outbreak for the moment. He said:

Why would we test the entire nation, 350 million people? We have the ability to test... we have tested far more than anybody else. When I say anybody else, other countries, no country is even close. They came out with a statistic, I guess yesterday, that I heard from Dr. Birx where it's for eight days here more than eight weeks, and South Korea has done a great job. But we did in eight days what South Korea did for eight weeks. That's a big number.

Trump is right about one thing—South Korea did a great job with its testing, because it aggressively deployed working test kits at the first sign of danger, and instituted strict social gathering restrictions and business closures as soon as the disease showed signs of spreading.

Essentially everything else Trump said is a lie. First of all, South Korea has conducted about the same number of tests as the United States, for a country with one-sixth the population. And since those tests were conducted without unnecessary delay, they were far more effective at actually containing the outbreak.

The "eight days" Trump is referring to are really the only ones where the United States' testing has gotten off the ground at all. Over 90% of tests conducted in the United States happened during those eight days, long after the disease had taken root nationwide and dozens of Americans were dead.

But Trump also left out a particularly embarrassing detail: that the United States has gone begging to South Korea for the same tests he's bragging about. South Korea's president, Moon Jae-in, told reporters today that "U.S. President Donald Trump made a request to us for the urgent provision of test kits and quarantine products."

Moon added that South Korea would do what it could to help the United States.

Why should I care about this?

  • The health and safety of Americans is more important than Donald Trump's personal vanity.
  • It's wrong to take credit for solving problems that still exist.
  • It's wrong to take credit for solving problems that someone else is solving.
  • This is way too important to lie about this much.