In a meandering Wall Street Journal interview filled with blatant and outlandish lies — such as the claim that he personally "made Juneteenth famous" — President Donald Trump on Thursday called COVID-19 testing "overrated" and admitted that he is putting the health of some of his supporters at risk by moving ahead with a planned rally this weekend in Tulsa.
Oklahoma has reported an "exponential & meteoric" rise in coronavirus cases in the past week, according to new research from an epidemiologist at Harvard University.
"I personally think testing is overrated, even though I created the greatest testing machine in history," Trump said. "I've created the greatest testing machine in history. And I think testing is overrated."
Pressed to explain his position, the president said testing "makes us look bad."
"We report every case," said Trump. "So, if we test 20 times more than some other country, we're going to find cases. They call them cases. And that's only because our testing is much better."
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both falsely claimed earlier this week that increased testing — rather than an actual surge in infections — is behind recent spikes in COVID-19 cases in more than 20 states across the U.S., which has lagged behind other nations in tests per capita. The White House has come under constant criticism from lawmakers and public health experts for failing to implement a nationwide testing strategy.
"The U.S is now conducting more than 3 million coronavirus tests a week, a big improvement over the shortages and failures that worsened the pandemic this spring. But the country risks another dangerous testing deficit this fall when schools and businesses try to reopen," Politico reported. "Safely reopening schools and businesses could require up to 30 million tests per week, rather than the current three million, certain experts say."
As Vox's Dylan Matthews wrote Thursday, contrary to Trump's dismissal of its importance, widespread testing is needed to "identify people with mild symptoms, so they can isolate and avoid spreading the virus to other people."
"You need tests to conduct contact tracing: the tedious work of interviewing people who test positive for COVID-19, finding out with whom they've been in close contact, and then informing those people of their potential exposure and asking them to self-isolate and — you guessed it — get tested," Matthews wrote.
"When you conduct more tests, you would expect the positive test rate to go down, because along with some more positive tests, you would get many more negative ones," Matthews continued. "So, experts are concerned because in states like Arizona and Florida and Texas, the positive test rate is actually increasing. That is what suggests increased spread of COVID-19 is behind some of rising case numbers — not simply more tests being conducted.
Trump went on in the Journal interview to admit that by holding a rally in Tulsa on Saturday despite the warnings of public health officials, he is putting his supporters at risk of infection.
"Well, people have to know that, yes," the president said. "But it's tiny. You know, it's a very small percentage."
Tulsa’s largest newspaper ran an editorial urging Trump not to stage his rally there at this time. Trump said rally-goers will not be required to wear face masks, which the president characterized as "a double-edged sword" that "could be a false sense of security."
Ardent Trump followers refuse to wear masks as a symbol of fealty to their leader, who treats mask-wearing as a contemptible sign of weakness and conformity. Trump followers have harassed and even assaulted people for wearing protective masks.Co
As Common Dreams reported last week, the Trump campaign is requiring prospective rally attendees to sign a waiver vowing not to sue if they contract COVID-19 at the event.
"The Trump campaign may have shied away from such a move if it could be held accountable for the resulting illness and potential deaths that are likely to follow," said Public Citizen president Robert Weissman. "Instead, it aims to escape liability and any measure of accountability by forcing attendees to waive their rights through contract terms that they are unlikely even to notice."