Trump’s Coronavirus Testing Chart Doesn’t Show the Success He Thinks It Does

President Donald Trump at a White House briefing on April 6.Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The coronavirus is a rapidly developing news story, so some of the content in this article might be out of date. Check out our most recent coverage of the coronavirus crisis, and subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

During his daily coronavirus task force briefing on April 6, President Trump tried to push back against reports that COVID-19 tests remain hard to get and that the United States is still lagging behind other countries in testing. “It’s going up at a rapid rate,” he said, referring to the bar chart behind him. “Nobody has done more testing.”  

A quick look at the chart suggested that the number of tests being given in the United States has shot up dramatically over the past month—and Trump’s gloss on the numbers implied the same. Yet as cartoonist Ruben Bolling pointed out on his Instagram feed, the chart showed the cumulative number of tests, which obscured whether the number of daily tests is going up rapidly, as Trump had boasted. Bolling helpfully remade the chart to show the less impressive number of tests actually being done day to day:

Ruben Bolling

As you can see in the chart below, the number of daily coronavirus tests has remained relatively small—around 162,000 on April 9, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. Yet the overall numbers keep rising even when the number of daily tests drops. In the week before Trump displayed his chart, the number of daily tests ranged from around 107,000 to a one-day spike of 229,000. 

Daily vs. total COVID-19 tests in the United States

As of April 6, just 0.6 percent of the US population had gotten a coronavirus test. Exactly a month earlier, Trump had gushed, “Anybody that needs a test, gets a test. They’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful.” Even a big beautiful bar chart can’t bend the curve of the disappointing reality.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.