President Trump has demonstrated on several occasions that he views the coronavirus pandemic not through the lens of keeping Americans safe, but of how it will impact his re-election chances. He all but said as much last week, telling reporters that he’d rather keep passengers on a Grand Princess cruise ship who tested positive out of America because “he likes the numbers being where they are.”
The same day, Dan Diamond of Politico reported on how Trump has “undermined his administration’s own efforts to fight the coronavirus outbreak” by “resisting attempts to plan for worst-case scenarios, overturning a public-health plan upon request from political allies and repeating only the warnings that he chose to hear.”
Considering what we know about the president, none of this is surprising, nor was it surprising when Diamond told NPR’s Terry Gross on Thursday that Trump hasn’t been pushing for aggressive testing because he’s “made clear the lower the numbers on coronavirus … the better for his potential reelection this fall.”
A previous tweet of this quote did not make it adequately clear that it is Trump who did not push for adequate testing, not Secretary of Health and Human Services Azar. Here is the whole quote for context. @ddiamond pic.twitter.com/ZZ2aPF53m6
— Fresh Air (@nprfreshair) March 12, 2020
Trump’s inaction likely slowed testing for the coronavirus, a critical safety areas where the U.S. has lagged well behind that of other nations. As of Thursday, the U.S. was administering only 23 tests per million people, the lowest rate of any developed nation contending with COVID-19.
“We can at best do 10,000 tests/day. We should be able to do millions,” Andy Slavitt, the Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Obama, noted in a Twitter thread. “All of this could have ramped up and solved in January & February and right now we would be talking about containment. We could have also allowed labs to produce tests earlier or gotten WHO tests. We did not. Why? In part Federal workers could not be seen contradicting Trump.”
The United States is currently testing the smallest percentage of its population of any developed nation pic.twitter.com/WpAJhyxL0y
— Nick Kapur (@nick_kapur) March 12, 2020
Testing in the U.S. has been so inadequate that a foreign philanthropist, Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, stepped in to donate 500,000 testing kits and 1 million masks. “Drawing from my own country’s experience, speedy and accurate testing and adequate personal protective equipment for medical professionals are most effective in preventing the spread of the virus,” he wrote through his foundation early Friday morning. “We hope that our donation can help Americans fight against the pandemic!”
But Trump has been unwilling to acknowledge his administration’s failure to administer testing, which now seems to have began with his own craven desire to tamp down the reported number of Americans who tested positive. “Frankly, the testing has been going very smoothly,” he told reporters on Thursday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top expert on infectious diseases, disagrees. “It is a failing,” he told Congress on Thursday. “I mean let’s admit it.”