On Thursday, the U.S. set another record for new COVID-19 cases— more than we’ve seen since early April. Donald Trump says the solution is obvious: Reduce testing. It appears to make perfect sense to many Trump stalwarts, too, that the way to slow the increase in the number of cases is not by wearing masks or by social distancing, but by simply eliminating testing. The Trump administration now plans to end federal funding for a number of COVID-19 testing sites in several states, despite public health experts’ warning that more testing, not less, is what will help contain the virus.
“Cases are going up in the U.S.,” Trump tweeted this week, “because we are testing far more than any other country, and ever expanding. With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!”
“Here’s the bad part,” said Trump at his rally in Tulsa, after boasting (falsely) that the U.S. was doing a bang-up job with coronavirus testing. “When you test the, when you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases. So I said to my people, slow the testing down please!”
The Tulsa crowd nodded and cheered at this. It was unclear why they were cheering for fewer tests, except that perhaps they saw brilliance in Trump’s logic that fewer tests mean fewer cases. Trump’s base is behind him all the way, as they always are, even when it endangers them.
Almost Immediately after Trump made those remarks, White House officials began claiming that he wasn’t serious.
Peter Navarro told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “Come on, now, Jake. You know that was tongue-in-cheek. Come on, now…It was a light moment.”
More than 122,000 Americans have now died from COVID-19. Nothing about the coronavirus warrants a light moment.
As they try to walk back Trump’s remark, it’s clear that even those who are close to Donald Trump are either in disbelief at what Trump said, or they are embarrassed by it.
In response to a reporter’s question about what Trump meant when he said he told his people to slow the testing down, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, “He was kidding… The President was trying to expose — what the media oftentimes does is they ignore the fact that the United States has more cases because we have more testing. We are leading the world in testing, and he was pointing that out that it’s a fact that the media readily ignores.”
She confirms what we’ve suspected all along: that one of the requirements for being a successful White House press secretary is the ability to gaslight without blinking an eye.
Trump later publicly stood by his comment, though. When asked if he had just been kidding, he said, “I don’t kid.”
McEnany later tried to clean up after Trump yet again by saying that Trump was also being sarcastic when he said, “I don’t kid.”
But it turns out that he wasn’t kidding.
Texas led the way in the hurry to re-open businesses and return to “normal.” Now, however, Texas is currently one of the leading states in the number of new cases per day. Though some people have waited for hours in line to get a test, federal funding for seven Texas testing sites will end on June 30. Several sites in Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Colorado will lose federal funding then, as well.
Twenty-seven states are now seeing sharp increases in the number of COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations. Governors of many of those states, supporters of Trump, ignored the guidelines for when it was safe to begin reopening their states’ businesses, and some are still refusing to enforce mask-wearing in public. Some, until recently, have even boldly denied that their states were seeing surges in the numbers of cases, despite data showing that the opposite was true.
But Donald Trump maintains that the number of COVID-19 cases is surging because we’re doing more testing. It doesn’t matter whether he really believes this; what’s important is that his supporters continue to push that narrative and that his base sees it as logical. To his childlike way of thinking, all he has to do is reduce testing to reduce the number of reported cases, and his ratings will soar.
Public health and infectious disease experts have clearly laid out that testing, contract tracing, isolating cases, wearing masks and practicing social distancing while doing the testing and contact tracing are the ways to effectively manage and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. That process is how other countries have succeeded at reducing the spread.
The U.S., however, is led by a man whose inability to understand cause and effect, and whose lack of capacity for complex thinking are combined with a dearth of empathy. Donald Trump is only able to see through the lens of his re-election prospects; COVID-19 is not about human lives for him, it’s about numbers that will make him look good or bad.
Donald Trump still appears to believe that, as he said earlier this year, COVID-19 will just fade away, “Like a miracle.” But since it’s not fading away quickly enough for him, Trump is hoping that if he can at least prevent us from seeing it, it will be like it’s not there.
Public Health experts warn that COVID-19 is indeed still here, and will be with us for a long time. Donald Trump’s presidency, however, does not need to stay with us for much longer. On Election Day, for our survival as Americans, we need to make the Trump presidency go away, “Like a miracle.”
Trump on COVID testing | The Oklahoman [2020-06-20]
Pres. Donald Trump: Coronavirus ‘testing is a double-edged sword’ and driving up U.S. case numbers | | CNBC [2020-06-23]