No, President Trump, Testing Is Not Causing Case Counts to Rise. The Virus Is Just Spreading Faster
The Trump administration has doubled down on its claims that coronavirus case counts are up because the U.S. has increased testing. However, a closer look at graphs of testing numbers and positive cases shows that this isn’t the case for many states.
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have repeatedly attributed the increase in the coronavirus case count in the United States to an increase in testing.
“We’re doing so much testing, so much more than any other country,” Trump said in an interview with CBN News on Monday
. “And to be honest with you, when you do more testing, you find more cases. And then they report our cases are through the roof.”
“I would just encourage you all, as we talk about these things, to make sure and continue to explain to your citizens the magnitude of increase in testing,” Pence said on a call with the nation’s governors last week, according to audio obtained by The New York Times
. “And that in most of the cases where we are seeing some marginal rise in number, that’s more a result of the extraordinary work you’re doing.”
These assertions are not backed up by the data, a ProPublica analysis shows.
While it is true that there has been a dramatic increase in testing since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the increase in positive cases in recent weeks cannot be attributed to the rise in testing alone.
After weeks in which coronavirus cases and deaths were slowly declining, the tide has turned. On Wednesday, the United States surpassed its previous record high number
of cases, reached in April when the virus was battering the Northeast, according to data gathered from states by The COVID Tracking Project
. Hospitalizations are also increasing, though they are far from their peak nationally in April.
“The tip of the iceberg can’t be growing with the iceberg shrinking,” said Dr. Sten Vermund, dean of the Yale School of Public Health. “It violates laws of physics and oceanography.”
A White House spokesman did not return an email seeking comment.
Deaths have not increased, but they are considered a lagging indicator. It takes several days after exposure for someone with COVID-19 to show symptoms and an additional five to seven days, on average, for the illness to be severe enough to require hospitalization. After that, it can take a couple days to a week to progress to intensive care, and a patient can linger there for some time before recovering or dying.
“Just speaking as an epidemiologist, if I saw rising testing, rising case numbers and declining hospitalizations and deaths, I would say that Donald Trump and Vice President Pence are correct,” Vermund said. Conversely, if those measures are rising, “I would say that they are blowing smoke.”
ProPublica looked at changes in the seven-day average of COVID-19 tests performed and the change in the overall number of positive tests in each state from Memorial Day, May 25, to Tuesday. By Memorial Day, most states had reopened
and news reports noted that groups were congregating again.
In some states, such as New York, Illinois and Indiana, testing has stayed about the same or increased while the share of positive tests has dropped. Continue Reading…