Trump Spent the Beginning of His Coronavirus Briefing Bragging About American Testing. He Shouldn’t.

Patrick Semansky/AP

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Near the start of his Sunday coronavirus briefing, President Donald Trump waved around a swab and a Q-tip and described how they were different from one another. (It wasn’t the weirdest part of the briefing.) They were visual aids to help him transition into praising his administration for conducting 4.18 million total coronavirus tests—more, he told the assembled reporters, than the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, South Korea, Japan, India, Austria, Singapore, Australia, and Canada had conducted combined.

As much as Trump would like you believe otherwise, that isn’t actually all that great. As Vox recently pointed out, the United States still lags behind countries like South Korea, Italy, and Canada in the number of COVID-19 tests conducted per million people. The US conducts 12,736 tests for every million people; by comparison, Germany leads the pack at 20,874 tests per million.

What’s more, public health experts have insisted widespread testing is necessary to get a better gauge of how widespread the coronavirus is nationwide. And Harvard researchers recently found that the country’s daily testing needs to triple by mid-May for the country to safely reopen. 

Trump wasn’t the only administration official talking up the testing numbers Sunday. Earlier in the day, Vice President Mike Pence went on the morning talk show circuit to say that the 150,000 COVID-19 tests conducted daily were “sufficient for any state in America” to begin lifting restrictions and called on states to activate their labs for more testing. 

As I wrote earlier today, governors weren’t happy:

Pence’s optimism encountered significant pushback from governors on both ends of the aisle on Sunday. “To try to push this off, to say that the governors have plenty of testing and they should just get to work on testing—somehow we aren’t doing our job—is just absolutely false,” Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told CNN. And Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam slammed the idea that states have enough testing capacity as “just delusional.” 

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