Facts First: Trump’s claims have been comprehensively inaccurate.
Trump’s own officials and his Republican allies have acknowledged it’s not true that a rising number of tests is the reason the number of cases has skyrocketed over the last month. One telling piece of evidence that the spike is genuine: the percentage of people testing positive, a key measure of the true spread of the virus, has also spiked.
Trump also keeps saying that the only reason the US has shown more confirmed cases than other countries, such as Germany, is that the US is doing more testing than they are. That is also not true. Countries like Germany have needed to do less testing over time because they were more successful at containing their outbreaks in the first place — by employing a strategy that involved aggressive early testing.
“Testing is certainly better than it was in April or May, but we still have a long way to go,” said Tara Smith, an epidemiology professor at Kent State University, noting reports of overwhelmed testing sites in multiple states. “We’re still nowhere close to where we need to be to test everyone who wants it, and lack of testing impacts our ability to carry out isolation and contact tracing. We still require a lot of improvement.”
Eyes closed, no cases?
In fact, the true number of cases would likely be higher with less testing.
Rising case numbers — and rising positivity rates
The number of confirmed cases was rising in 33 of the 50 states as of Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Trump’s own officials, such as Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir, have acknowledged the country is experiencing a “real” increase in cases, not just showing the result of more testing.
Texas, Arizona and Florida, which have seen recent spikes in the number of confirmed cases, have also seen a dramatic increase in their positivity rates — with Texas jumping from 6.6% to 15.6% in the last month, Arizona increasing from 12.7% to 26.8% in the same time period, and Florida going from 4.1% to 19.1%.
Florida’s Miami-Dade County, which has seen a drastic spike in cases, reported a 26% positivity rate on Sunday.
The international comparison
Dr. Hans-Georg Kräusslich, a professor and infectious diseases expert at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, said that the number of tests conducted is generally determined by medical need, specifically the number of people experiencing symptoms — and since Germany has a low true infection rate, the country does not need to use even close to its full testing capacity.
In other words, Kräusslich said, Trump is arguing that more testing “creates” more cases — but, in reality, “more symptomatic infections ‘create’ more testing.”
“No, I do not think that testing rates explain the differences,” Kräusslich said.
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