On Sunday, President Trump took to Twitter to urge governors to buck up and start testing residents for the coronavirus. “No excuses!” he wrote.
Governors, get your states testing programs & apparatus perfected. Be ready, big things are happening. No excuses! The Federal Government is there to help. We are testing more than any country in the World. Also, gear up with Face Masks!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2020
There’s a lot to unpack in this latest presidential deflection of responsibility. The failure to make coronavirus tests widely available months ago is perhaps the most colossal mistake among the Trump administration’s many bungled coronavirus responses. To date, there have been 2.8 million coronavirus tests administered in the United States, according to the COVID Tracking Project. That’s less than 1 percent of the population—a lower per capita rate than other countries. So while it’s technically true that the US has tested more people than other countries, the suggestion that we’re leading the world in testing rates—something Trump has repeated—is not.
Even members of Trump’s administration agree that national surveillance testing hasn’t gone well: Asked by Science Magazine what went wrong in the US response, Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “Obviously, testing is one clear issue that needs to be relooked at. Why were we not able to mobilize on a broader scale?” Last week, the Trump administration announced plans to pull back funding for testing centers across the country, prompting bipartisan uproar and a reversal of the plan.
The tweet comes a day after a bombshell New York Times story details the many ways in which top administration officials attempted to sound the alarm bells and urged the president into action in January and February.
As for gearing up with face masks, it’s unclear where the president expects this protective equipment to be coming from: just last week the administration informed Congress that the the federal government’s emergency stockpile was depleted and states wouldn’t be receiving more shipments of personal protective gear.
On Friday, Trump announced that the administration was now encouraging the use of non-medical face masks, and then clarified, “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.” He went on, “Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens—I just don’t see it.”