U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday said testing for coronavirus might be “overrated,” revisiting his concern early in the outbreak that testing for the disease would raise the nation’s case count.
After touring the medical supply distributor Owens and Minor in Allentown, Pa., the president — he and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows were the only members of the tour group not wearing masks — talked about his plans for expanding the Strategic National Stockpile and lauded his administration for its coronavirus response, including increased testing.
“America has now conducted its 10 millionth test. That’s as of yesterday afternoon. Ten million tests we gave. Ten million,” Trump said from a stage at the warehouse event, which had the trappings of a campaign-style rally. “And CVS has just committed to establish up to 1,000 new coronavirus testing sites by the end of this month, and the 10 millionth will go up very, very rapidly.”
“And don’t forget, we have more cases than anybody in the world,” he added. “But why? Because we do more testing. When you test, you have a case. When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases.”
Trump said the news media had refused to report his “common sense” explanation for the country’s high case numbers. He repeated the misleading claim that the U.S. has tested more people than other countries, sidestepping the reality that testing as a share of the population is lower than in other countries.
“So we have the best testing in the world,” Trump said. “It could be the testing’s, frankly, overrated? Maybe it is overrated. But whatever they start yelling, we want more, we want more. You know, they always say we want more, we want more because they don’t want to give you credit.”
Trump’s comments about the quality and importance of testing have had an undertone of doubt in recent weeks, as the virus continues to spread and has made its way into the president’s inner circle. Katie Miller, the vice president’s top spokesperson, and Trump’s personal valet tested positive last week — heightening fears that the president could be exposed. Vice President Mike Pence has avoided contact with Trump since the announcement, and his schedule has been barren or limited since Miller’s diagnosis.
“This is why the whole concept of tests aren’t necessarily great,” the president said last week during a meeting with congressional Republicans at the White House, referring to Miller. “The tests are perfect, but something can happen between a test where it’s good and then something happens. … She was tested very recently and tested negative, and then today, I guess for some reason, she tested positive.”
Trump has long expressed concerns regarding U.S. case numbers, accusing other countries, like China, of not accurately reporting its own numbers. And in early March, the president visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he expressed concern that the passengers of the Grand Princess cruise ship being held in the waters of San Francisco would raise U.S. case numbers if the passengers were let off the ship.
“I like the numbers being where they are,” Trump said at the time. “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault. And it wasn’t the fault of the people on the ship either, OK? It wasn’t their fault either, and they’re mostly Americans. So, I can live either way with it. I’d rather have them stay on, personally.”