Trump sabotaged coronavirus testing to keep numbers low

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Photo: Chris Carlson / POOL / AFP via Getty Images

Public health officials believe widespread testing is a key part of any response to the coronavirus. President Trump does not believe it. And now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has officially taken Trump’s point of view. It has changed its official guidelines and now only recommends those who have been exposed to the virus but currently have no symptoms take a test.

Early reports of this change were filled with comments from disbelieving experts, whose ratings included “weird”, “very strange”, “this will make matters worse” and so on. We now have an explanation for this bizarre policy: senior officials ordered it. CNN reports that the change “came this week due to pressure from the upper echelons of the Trump administration.” New York Time adds: “One official said the directive came from the top down. Another said the guidelines were not written by the CDC but were forced to do so.

Evidence that Trump has sought to slow down testing has been available for a long time. In March, Trump told reporters he was keeping infected passengers off on a cruise ship in order to contain official infection numbers: “I like the numbers where they are. I don’t need to double the number because of just one ship. “

He has been saying for months that the availability of tests increases the levels of recorded cases and gives him a bad image. (“When you test you have a case. When you test you find that something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing we would have very few cases.”) And he insisted that many people do not need the tests because they are young and recovering. “A lot of these cases are young people who heal in a day,” he said on July 19. “They sniffle and we test it.

In July, Trump announced at a rally, “You know testing is a double-edged sword… Here’s the bad part: When you test to this extent, you’re going to find more people; you will find more cases. So I said to my people, “Please slow down the tests.” “

His supporters insisted he was joking. A reporter offered Trump the chance to make this defense. He does not have. When asked: “But did you ask to slow down [testing] down? Trump shrugged his shoulders and replied, “If this slows down, frankly I think we’re way ahead of ourselves, if you want to know the truth. We have done as well good job because every time we go up, with 25 million tests you’re going to find more people, so they say, ‘oh, we have more cases in the states.’ Of course, it’s also perfectly consistent with Trump’s oft-asserted belief that the pandemic is a perceptual issue and that pretending it doesn’t exist will help him politically.

Reporters have repeatedly confirmed that Trump applied this pressure behind the scenes. Dan Diamond reported in March that the White House “had not pushed for aggressive additional testing in recent weeks, and that’s in part because more testing could have led to the discovery of more outbreak cases. coronavirus, and the president had made it clear – the more the coronavirus numbers, the better for the president, the better for his potential re-election this fall.

And in July, Katherine Bean reported that in internal meetings, “Trump was also concerned that more testing would lead to more cases and more bad publicity.”

There has been a strange reluctance to take Trump’s comments seriously or literally. But the accumulation of evidence is pretty clear. Trump’s public comments, reports on his private position, and reports from officials on the latest change all point to the same conclusion: Trump is canceling public health officials and sabotaging coronavirus testing because he thinks keeping the number of cases at a deceptively low level will make it look. better.

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