As coronavirus cases continue to climb in more than 20 states, raising fears of a second wave of hospitalizations and deaths, some politicians have taken to waving away the worrisome news with a rudimentary, reassuring explanation.
Of course the number of COVID-19 cases is going up, they say. That’s what happens when you test more people: You find more infections.
On Monday, President Trump added his voice to this soothing chorus. “Our testing is so much bigger and more advanced than any other country (we have done a great job on this!) that it shows more cases,” Trump tweeted in the morning. “Without testing, or weak testing, we would be showing almost no cases. Testing is a double edged sword – Makes us look bad, but good to have!!!”
“If we stop testing right now,” the president added during an event for seniors at the White House, “we’d have very few cases, if any.”
And according to a report in the New York Times, Vice President Mike Pence echoed Trump’s argument during a call Monday with governors, urging them “to continue to explain to your citizens the magnitude of the increase in testing” in order to “encourage people with the news that we’re safely reopening the country.”
Trump is right about one thing: The U.S. is now conducting more COVID-19 tests than any other country, in total (about 465,000 a day) and per capita (about 1.25 per 1,000 residents). But his nonsensical, if-a-tree-falls-in-the-forest suggestion that somehow coronavirus infections would cease to exist if we stopped trying to detect them is dangerously deluded, and saying so only contributes to a sense of complacency that threatens to further accelerate the spread of the virus.
It doesn’t take advanced math to debunk Trump’s claim. Just look at Florida, where Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, one of the president’s staunchest allies, has recently been brushing off questions from reporters with a similar line.
“As you’re testing more, you’re going to find more cases,” DeSantis said Thursday.