Wednesday, April 29, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He said he didn't say the thing he said yesterday, but that he was right to have said it.

Yesterday, Trump was asked—twice—whether he thought that the United States would soon be able to conduct five million coronavirus tests a day, one of the lower benchmarks for an effective contact-tracing system in a country this large. (A Harvard University study found that 20 million tests per day was a more likely requirement.) 

Q: Did I hear you saying you’re confident you can surpass 5 million tests per day?  Is that — 
TRUMP:  Oh, well, we’re going to be there very soon.  If you look at the numbers, it could be that we’re getting very close.  I mean, I don’t have the exact numbers.  We would’ve had them if you asked me the same question a little while ago because people with the statistics were there. 
We’re going to be there very soon.

Adm. Brett Giroir is a medical doctor and the Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services, and the person Trump has put in charge of testing. He had a different view:

There is absolutely no way on Earth, on this planet or any other planet, that we can do 20 million tests a day, or even five million tests a day.

Today, asked why he and Giroir gave different answers, Trump explained that he was right and Giroir was wrong—but he never said so.

TRUMP:  Do I think we will?  I think we will, but I never said it.  We’re testing millions of people.  We’re testing more people than anyone — any country in the world by far — by double, by much more than double.  More than everybody else in combined, we’re testing. 
But somebody started throwing around 5 million.  I didn’t say 5 million.  Somebody said 5 million.  I think it might have been the Harvard report.  There was a report from Harvard and they said 5 million. 
Q: You were asked about it and you said, “We will be there very soon.” 
TRUMP:  Well, we will be there.  But I didn’t say it.  I mean, I’m — I didn’t say it.  But somebody came out with a report saying 5 million.  It sounds like a lot.

It is a lot. Five million tests is slightly fewer than the United States has done in the past three months combined.

Why does this matter?

  • Trump is wrong and the public health expert is right.