Asked about that month-old statement on Monday, the man who made it, testing czar Adm. Brett Giroir, explained, saying it has been a matter of utility.
“So if you want to use those metrics, there’s been over 40 million quote ‘in the marketplace,’ ” Giroir said. “But we have an end-to-end issue that we needed to deal with. And that’s what we’ve been dealing with. … We have some of our main platforms that are only 10 percent being utilized.”
He added: “If the machines aren’t utilizing them and they’re not organized at that level, then they’re not being utilized to its fullest. You would have a lot of those millions of tests already being done. I think [Deborah] Birx has estimated that we have another million tests a week just on one platform that could be if the machines were utilized more fully.”
Trump claimed at the start of the news conference that people were focused on testing because criticisms of the lack of ventilators haven’t panned out. In fact, questions about testing have been asked for many weeks — as Giroir’s month-old claim demonstrates.
2. Trump ignores rallies, claims he hasn’t left the White House ‘in months’
At one point while he was playing up his early coronavirus response — specifically his Jan. 31 travel restrictions on China — PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor noted that Trump was still holding campaign rallies with large crowds in early March.
Trump responded by wrongly saying he hadn’t left the White House “in months.”
“I don’t know about rallies. I really don’t know about rallies,” Trump said. “I know one thing: I haven’t left the White House in months, except for a brief moment to give a wonderful ship, the Comfort —”
When Alcindor again pointed out that he held a rally on March 2 in North Carolina, to be exact — Trump responded: “Did I hold a rally? I’m sorry. I hold a rally. Did I hold a rally?” He pointed out that there had been no deaths as of January, so, “How could I not?”
3. Trump says hard-hit areas have ‘turned the corner’
Trump’s long-standing efforts to play up the positives in the fight against the virus were on full display early on.
“We continue to be encouraged that many of the areas hardest hit by the virus appear to have turned the corner,” Trump said. “For example, recent deaths are down very, very substantially. You can compare that with their peak not so long ago — and you have numbers of 30 percent, 25 percent — in Detroit, as an example, it’s down by over 50 percent. Congratulations. And in New Orleans, where they’ve done a terrific job, they’re down 65 percent.”
Trump added: “Thirty states have just one case or less per 1,000 people — far fewer cases per capita, as an example, than Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Ireland, Switzerland, Singapore, Belgium, Spain, Norway, the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden.”
A few points: First, when you compare the least-hit areas of the country to much broader populations such as European countries, you are likely to find lower infection rates.
And second, while the nationwide number of deaths is down from its peak a few days ago, that peak owed to New York City adding what had been probable coronavirus deaths to its tallies. Otherwise, over the past two weeks, the nationwide death toll has remained consistently around 2,000 per day. So even if the hardest-hit areas are seeing declines, the overall death toll isn’t substantially declining yet.
4. Trump adjusts goal for death toll: 50,000 to 60,000
Alongside his optimism about certain hard-hit areas, Trump adjusted downward his target for the number of deaths from the virus, saying we are currently headed toward “50 or 60,000 people.”
“Now we’re going toward 50, I’m hearing, or 60,000 people,” Trump said. “One is too many. I always say it: One is too many. But we’re going toward 50 or 60,000 people. That’s at the lower — as you know, the low number was supposed to be 100,000 people. We could end up at 50 to 60.”
Trump has in the past played up a model that suggested between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths, and suggested that would represent a good job by his administration. Then he began playing up the idea that it could be as low as 60,000 or 65,000. Now he seems to be aiming lower.
It’s worth noting that the most recent Washington Post death toll is at 42,000 — meaning hitting between 50,000 and 60,000 would require a sharp downward trend in the days and weeks to come.
5. Trump’s context-free claim about Cuomo
Early in the news conference, Trump again downplayed the federal government’s role in the coronavirus response. But in doing so, he left out some crucial context.
Trump cited New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s (D) comments about the states being responsible for testing.
“I want to draw your attention to Governor Cuomo’s remarks during his news conference today,” Trump said. “He said the president is right: The state’s testing is up to the states to do.”
Cuomo did in fact say that, but he also said that it was up to the federal government to make sure the supply chain is up to snuff, and that this was a problem.
“The president is right. He’s right. States have to do what they have to step up on testing, and the federal has to step up on testing. The federal government is involved in testing.”
Cuomo went on the emphasize that labs need testing materials but are running into supply-chain issues. Cuomo again emphasized that it needs to be a partnership.