Early on, Trump and the officials around him said the lack of testing would soon be addressed. In the course of it, though, he continued his effort to downplay the threat posed by the coronavirus, including by saying he didn’t think that many tests would be needed.
“It’s going very quickly, which will bring additionally 1.4 million tests onboard next week and 5 million within a month,” Trump said, before adding: “I doubt we’ll need anywhere near that.”
Trump also, despite the ramping up in the availability of testing, urged people against getting tested unless they really needed it. And he again suggested that the fast-spreading disease would soon be gone.
“But we don’t want people to take a test if we feel that they shouldn’t be doing it,” Trump said, adding: “We don’t want everybody taking a test. It’s totally unnecessary. And this will pass.”
Later in the news conference, attention turned to Trump’s own potential exposure to the virus. He appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference recently, where one attendee turned out to have the coronavirus. A number of high-ranking Republicans who interacted with the person went into self-quarantine but have not been diagnosed as having covid-19, the disease the virus causes, and Trump appeared with a few of them in the days afterward. Trump was also recently pictured at Mar-a-Lago with an aide to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro who tested positive.
Despite these potential exposures, Trump has said he hasn’t been tested. And he downplayed the interaction with the Bolsonaro aide by saying he didn’t even know who it was.
“Well, first of all, I’m not coming back from someplace,” Trump said. “There was somebody that they say has it. I have no idea who he is, but I take pictures and it lasts for literally seconds. I don’t know the gentleman that we’re talking about, have no idea who he is. I haven’t seen the picture. I said there’s a picture of somebody. But I take sometimes hundreds of pictures a day, and that night I was taking hundreds of pictures.”
Top Trump administration health official Anthony S. Fauci said Friday that anybody who comes in contact with someone who has the disease should get tested and should self-quarantine. Trump fits that description and has apparently done neither.
Trump explained the lack of a test by saying he has no symptoms. But even while saying that, he did later say that he would “most likely” be tested. Yet he insisted it wasn’t because of the potential exposure.
“Not for that reason, but because I think I will do it anyway,” Trump said. “We’re working on that. We’re working out a schedule.”
So should people who are exposed be tested, as Fauci said? Or should they first wait for symptoms, which Trump suggests are the deciding factor?
One thing is for sure: Trump has been in contact with many, many people since his potential exposures — and he was even shaking hands with those around him at the news conference Friday. The fact that he hasn’t been tested goes against the advice of his own administration’s health officials, and the fact that he says he’ll be tested despite not having symptoms goes against what he said himself at the start of the news conference.
Trump’s handling of the coronavirus has been uneven, to say the least. And this just added to it.
Update: It gets even murkier. After Trump said he would likely get tested, the White House doctor issued a letter Friday night stating that “testing for Covid-19 is not currently indicated” because Trump isn’t showing any symptoms. Again, Fauci said anyone who came into contact with someone who has the virus should get tested.