Trump’s claim about America’s case spike exposed

 

Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed the United States' growing case count is due to increased testing.

But the rise in cases is far greater than the growth in testing, meaning that even once you factor in the number of tests the US is doing, its rate of infection is still far too high.

With close to four million cases and over 143,000 deaths, the US has been hit worse by COVID-19 than any other country in the world.

WHAT HAS TRUMP CLAIMED ABOUT TESTING?

The Trump administration often attributes the increase in virus cases with an increase in testing.

On the surface, this may sound logical; the US is the third-most populated country in the world, and is conducting hundreds of thousands of tests per day.

At a re-election rally in Oklahoma last month, Mr Trump described it as a "double-edged sword", claiming he ordered that testing he slowed down.

"When you do testing to that extent you're going to find more people," he told the crowd.

"You're going to find more cases, so I said to my people, 'Slow the testing down please.'

"They test and they test and we got tests - people don't know what's going on. We got tests, 'We got another one over here'."

 

He also blamed the "radical fake news" media for not giving him due credit, claiming he has "saved hundreds of thousands of lives".

But it's not as simple as all this. Even factoring in the number of tests the US is conducting, the situation isn't good.

HOW IS THE US ACTUALLY FARING?

The US has a population of around 328 million people, representing around 4 per cent of the world's population.

But the country currently has almost four million cases - representing more than 25 per cent of the global total.

A key problem with Mr Trump's claim is that the rise in cases is far greater than the growth in testing.

The average number of tests conducted in the US has grown by 80 per cent since early June, to 780,000 per day, according to a New York Times analysis.

But 31 states show an increase in cases beyond what would be expected from expanded testing. Florida, one of the worst-hit states in the US, is reporting more than 11,000 cases per day. The analysis found that only 2400 cases per day would be expected when factoring in increased testing.

The situation is similarly dire in California, Texas and Michigan.

 

The Times calculated this by looking at the average positive test rate in each state for the two weeks ending June 9, and multiplied those rates by the number of tests done each day since.

"These calculations assume that the severity of the outbreak in each state would remain about the same and that positive test rates would hold as testing expanded. This is the most that cases would increase as a result of increased testing," the report explained.

"As tests become more widely available and more people who are not sick take them, positive test rates should fall.

"Instead, the United States is seeing the opposite: More tests are being conducted, but more are coming back positive, driving case counts even higher."

WHAT'S DRIVING THE SPIKE IN CASES?

Experts said a key problem was that the country's more problematic states were trying to re-open themselves too quickly.

Speaking on Podcast-19 earlier this month, America's top infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci said states like Florida and Arizona ignored the recommended guidelines on how to reopen, proceeding too quickly to get their economies moving again.

"Certainly Florida I know jumped over a couple of checkpoints," Dr Fauci said.

"It's pretty obvious that in some states, the governors or the mayors essentially jumped over the guidelines and the checkpoints, and opened up a little bit too soon. They were not prepared to deal with the resurgences that they saw."

He said young people in particular "threw caution to the wind, and you see films of people very densely congregated at bars and in areas where they're not looking at social distancing or wearing masks".

"I think what we're seeing right now are the results of that, in four states that are accounting for 50 per cent of new infections."

The four states Dr Fauci was referring to were Florida, Arizona, California and Texas.

So-called "pandemic parties" have also been raging across the state, according to local newspaper The Sun Sentinel.

The median age of those infected in the state has plummeted from 65 years old at the beginning of March to 39 last week, suggesting younger, healthier people are transmitting the virus.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez singled out young partygoers for accelerating the spread.

"We saw a rapid rise in young people … being positive to COVID-19 around mid-June," he told CBS News in June. "I think that that had a lot to do with probably socialising, young kids going to parties, maybe graduation parties at homes, because it's been pretty locked down here for some time."

Dr Fauci also partly blamed the atmosphere of political divisiveness in the country, including the way masks were initially shunned by leaders.

"As a country, when you compare us to other countries, I don't think you can say we're doing great," Dr Fauci said.

"I think you'd have to make the assumption that if there wasn't such divisiveness, that we would have a more co-ordinated approach."

Originally published as Stat that exposes America's virus excuse