President Donald Trump made a number of false and misleading claims on Tuesday to advance his case that the US is not only over the worst of the coronavirus outbreak, but nearing the point of being ready to reopen for business.
Most concerning was his insistence that the US has mastered what public health experts say must be step one to reopening: widespread testing. The US’s daily testing capacity has been flat for about a month, and experts say it needs to triple before it’ll be truly safe to reopen businesses.
To hear Trump tell it, however, the US has actually conducted more tests than all other countries combined.
“I think I read yesterday a report that we’ve done more than everybody — every other country — combined,” Trump said on Tuesday, adding later: “We’ve tested more than every other country in the world even put together.”
Asked why the federal government hasn't lived up to Pence's promises about testing, Trump lies and says the US has tested more than all other countries combined (this is not true) pic.twitter.com/QmpvxnB0Mq— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 21, 2020
This is a whopper. According to Worldometer, a site that tracks coronavirus data by country, the US has, in fact, done more testing than any other individual country that reports data — the number of tests conducted in China, for instance, isn’t available — but the US is nowhere close to doing more testing than all other countries combined. Well over 20 million tests have been conducted across the world, and just over 4 million have been done in the United States.
So Trump’s claim isn’t even close to correct. It also overlooks that while the raw number of tests conducted in America sounds impressive, it lags behind countries like Germany and Canada in terms of tests per one million people.
The reality is that while US coronavirus deaths are growing at a slower rate than they were a week ago, it’s still too early to say whether the worst is already in the rearview mirror.
NEW: Tue 21 April update of coronavirus trajectories— John Burn-Murdoch (@jburnmurdoch) April 21, 2020
• Still too early to say if US has peaked
• Beginning to look like UK has
• But descents look much slower than ascents
• Successes in dark blue: Australia, Norway, Austria
Live charts https://t.co/JxVd2cG7KI pic.twitter.com/jHrg49Uamp
But with the economy in ruins and a tough reelection fight on the horizon, Trump has reasons to reopen businesses quickly. Characteristically, they don’t jibe with reality.
Perhaps Trump’s most egregious lie on Tuesday was saved for his comments about anti-stay-at-home protests he’s encouraged in states like Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia — protests that are essentially against his own policies.
“I’ve watched some of the protests,” Trump said. “They’re separated, there’s a lot of space in between. They’re doing social distancing, if you can believe it.”
Trump on anti-stay-at-home protests: "They're separated, there's a lot of space in between. They're doing social distancing, if you can believe it." (Many protesters are not doing social distancing.) pic.twitter.com/NEiReWWFYI— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 21, 2020
Fox News’s coverage, however, has made it abundantly clear that many of the protesters are not only not social distancing, but seemingly thumbing their nose at the notion and thereby putting their friends, family, and neighbors in danger of contracting the virus.
Consider this screengrab from Fox’s coverage of a North Carolina protest on Tuesday — coverage that led the noon hour:
These stills from last Friday’s coverage also show protesters packed together in a manner that could spread the virus.
Fox News just showed a protest against social distancing with someone holding a sign saying "COVID-19 IS A LIE" pic.twitter.com/mcgVBJy9DZ— John Whitehouse (@existentialfish) April 17, 2020
Trump, however, seems willing to say whatever it takes to make reopening business at this juncture seem like a reasonable option, and he’s getting help from other members of the White House coronavirus task force in this effort.
On Tuesday, for instance, task force coordinate Dr. Deborah Birx made the case that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s (R) move to reopen hair salons and tattoo parlors as soon as this weekend could make sense — if workers are able to give haircuts or tattoo people while remaining socially distanced.
“If there’s a way that people can social distance and do those things, then they can do those things,” Birx said. “I don’t know how.”
Asked how it's possible for hair salons and tattoo parlors in Georgia to reopen, Birx says "if there's a way that people can social distance and do those things, then they can do those things. I don't know how." pic.twitter.com/Qx7YgPUPSV— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 21, 2020
At another point, Trump was asked how people in South Carolina could be protected from the governor of Georgia’s decision if it turns out to be a bad one. “We’re going to find out,” he said in response.