Failure to Test

As Trump's numbers get worse, his allies are trying to absolve him of blame

Text written March 17. Updated screenshot taken 3:00 pm ET, Monday March 30, 2020

From the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Trump has shown more concern for his numbers than his people. He even admitted publicly that he’d prefer to see American victims languish (and maybe die) on a cruise ship than be counted in “his” US tally.

But even as Trump has bragged for weeks about how great the US is doing (thanks to him) because our numbers are so low, it has been apparent for weeks that we don’t actually know what our numbers are.

As Dr. Marty Makary, a medical professor at Johns Hopkins University (whose website has been a key source of data for the media) said recently:

Don’t believe the numbers when you see, even on our Johns Hopkins website… I think we have between 50,000 and half a million cases right now walking around in the United States.

The reason we don’t have an accurate count—and the reason that the disease has spread unchecked across the US—is precisely because of our government’s total failure to test and isolate those who were infected, even as the disease spread unchecked across the US.

“I don’t take responsibility”

Trump has been rightly slammed for refusing to admit that he, as President, has responsibility for the testing disaster that has put millions of American lives at risk.

But the facts are clear. As Politico reported:

By the end of February, the World Health Organization had shipped tests to nearly 60 countries. The United States was not among them…. Why the United States declined to use the WHO test, even temporarily as a bridge until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could produce its own test, remains a perplexing question and the key to the Trump administration’s failure to provide enough tests to identify the coronavirus infections before they could be passed on.

After declining the WHO test—a test that allowed countries like South Korea to ramp up testing quickly and get a grip of the virus—the CDC then bungled the roll-out of the test it created, losing three additional weeks.

Because of these horrendous delays, as former House impeachment counsel Daniel Goldman told Rachel Maddow last night: “We’re at the point now where... we need to shut down the country for two weeks... (which) could have been prevented if we had enough tests.”

Goldman’s story is particularly powerful because—as a COVID-19 patient—he went to extraordinary lengths just to get tested. He is now recovering at home with his wife who he also infected prior to being diagnosed.

Fauci becomes the right-wing’s new propaganda tool

In the midst of Trump’s credibility crisis (can we even believe 100% that he truly got tested for COVID-19?), the right-wing media machine is making a habit of cherry-picking quotes from Anthony Fauci in a desperate attempt to inoculate Dear Leader from criticism for the crisis he created.

This morning, right-wing hack Hugh Hewitt championed the “key headline” from a new interview with Fauci:

I hesitate to point to one thing but his clear indeed adamant statement that CDC testing delay was nobody’s fault and certainly not the fault of @realDonaldTrump is probably the key headline.

Of course, in 2018 (the same year he disbanded the White House pandemic team), Trump made the “terrible” pick to put Christian extremist Robert Redfield, whose “dubious qualifications” included working with an organization that believed AIDS was “God's judgment” against homosexuals, in charge of the CDC. And Trump has frequently sought drastic cuts to the CDC budget even as the crisis began.

But even if you forgive Trump for the screwups at the CDC, the original sin remains: The Trump Administration rejected the WHO coronavirus test all the way back in January.

There’s no sugarcoating it.

As Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said recently: “This is an unmitigated disaster that the administration has brought upon the population.”