In recent days, President Donald Trump has been downplaying the increasingly dire public health situation in the US by reviving a flawed argument he first made in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic — that the reason cases are going up is because the country does so much testing.
“Cases up because we TEST, TEST, TEST. A Fake News Media Conspiracy,” Trump tweeted on Monday morning. “Many young people who heal very fast. 99.9%. Corrupt Media conspiracy at all time high. On November 4th., topic will totally change. VOTE!”
Cases up because we TEST, TEST, TEST. A Fake News Media Conspiracy. Many young people who heal very fast. 99.9%. Corrupt Media conspiracy at all time high. On November 4th., topic will totally change. VOTE!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 26, 2020
This talking point echoes what Trump has been saying at his recent rallies. On Friday in Florida, for instance, he said, “You know why we have so many [coronavirus] case numbers? Because we do more testing than any country in the world ... there’s plenty good about testing, too. The bad thing is you find cases.”
"You know why we have so many [coronavirus] case numbers? Because we do more testing than any country in the world ... there's plenty good about testing, too. The bad thing is you find cases." -- Trump still hasn't figured out that testing doesn't cause cases, the virus does pic.twitter.com/x38GihJWj0— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 23, 2020
These comments come as single-day new coronavirus cases in the US hit record highs, spiking from about 35,000 a day in early September to roughly 83,000 on both Friday and Saturday. Trump might have a point if the number of tests conducted each day was experiencing a similar surge — but cases are rising much faster than daily tests.
As CNBC detailed over the weekend:
While Covid-19 testing is up nearly 13% from Oct. 1, new cases have risen at a much faster rate. The seven-day average of new infections is up 51% over that same period, according to Johns Hopkins data.
And it’s not just cases that are rising. According to data from the COVID Tracking Project, coronavirus hospitalizations are up about 33 percent over the past month.
Our daily update is published. States reported 1.1 million tests, 65k cases, 42k currently hospitalized. The death toll was 337 today. pic.twitter.com/bJFHagHcaD— The COVID Tracking Project (@COVID19Tracking) October 25, 2020
Daily coronavirus deaths have remained relatively flat over the past three months, but experts warn that’s likely to change as cases spike. Instead of engaging with this reality, however, Trump’s closing campaign message has been to spread misinformation about the pandemic — as well as infections at pandemic rallies that make a mockery of basic public health guidelines recommended by his own government.
In another tweet Monday morning, Trump suggested the media only covers the coronavirus so much because it wants to scare people. This also echoes comments he’s made at his recent rallies, where he’s repeatedly suggested the media wouldn’t cover hypothetical plane crashes because outlets are so fixated on the coronavirus.
"That's all I hear about now. Turn on TV, 'Covid, Covid, Covid Covid Covid.' A plane goes down, 500 people dead, they don't talk about it. 'Covid Covid Covid Covid.' By the way, on November 4th, you won't hear about it anymore ... 'please don't go and vote, Covid!'" -- Trump pic.twitter.com/1bh7x2RSTy— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 24, 2020
In reality, the latest spike in cases has pushed hospitals in places like Texas and Utah to the breaking point, and has prompted health care providers to make contingency plans for rationing care. Meanwhile, about 800 Americans are dying each day from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus — which is roughly the equivalent of three or four plane crashes.
But since taking that state of affairs seriously reflects poorly on the short-term decision-making Trump has employed from day one of the coronavirus pandemic, the president has instead opted for trying to turn reality on its head. And while his fortunes could still change before next Tuesday, polls to date have indicated that with the US coronavirus death toll now north of 225,000, Americans aren’t buying what Trump is trying to sell.