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Trump’s claims about how much testing we’re doing begs some context

Attorney Scott Pilutik wrestles with the news of the day, from a lawyerly perspective…

Regarding testing…

I don’t know how much mileage Trump thinks he’s getting from the claim that ‘we’ve done the most testing of any country’ in support of “reopening” the economy, but it’s a claim that begs some context.

First: Of course we’ve tested the most people — we have the most people who have shown up at the hospital infected, who then get tested. We have five times as many confirmed cases as the next nearest country, Spain.


Second: Using total number of tests performed is a less useful measure than tests performed as a percentage of population. The United States trails eight countries in this regard.

Third: The type of testing Trump is referring to — testing of likely infected people — isn’t the type of testing that will enable us to return to some sense of normalcy. We need to be able to test the potentially asymptomatic (i.e., everyone), and we need to develop and administer a reliable antibody test.

As for regular testing, health officials say we need to be administering three times the number of tests we’re presently administering. Only Rhode Island presently meets that standard, and only New York and Massachusetts com close to the recommended 150 tests per 100,000 people rate.

As for a reliable antibody test, not only are we not there in terms of reliability and scalability, but we’re in the dark as to its theoretical efficacy — some studies have indicated people can be reinfected despite the presence of antibodies.

Fourth: (and this brings us back to my federalism hobby horse), when Trump says “we’ve tested the most” he’s not talking about the federal government but rather the accomplishments of the states, to whom the federal government has provided little support. Indeed, New York alone has tested more people than all but a few countries. The federal stockpile? That’s evidently Jared Kushner’s. The states’ testing numbers? Oh, “we” did that.

I think it’s fine, when talking about the United States, to use the royal “we,” but don’t forget that the federal government is barely lifting a finger to help the states, and in some cases actively interfering.

Just as there’s no real debate in the scientific community about the roundness of the earth or climate change, there’s no real debate about the amount of testing necessary to safely return the country to something approaching normalcy. Popular consensus among the country’s elected leaders has evidently come to rest far short of medical consensus.

[Regarding this story: After One Tweet To President Trump, This Man Got $69 Million From New York For Ventilators]

This story is obscene.

New York deserves at least some of the blame for believing that a pre-clearance from Jared Kushner’s coronavirus task force holds any weight whatsoever. But the fact that the White House is passing along recommendations worth millions of dollars based on no vetting whatsoever is probably a very good indicator of an astonishing amount of ongoing fraud and abuse by opportunists aligned with the usual suspects.

The Silicon Valley engineer, who had no background in medical supplies but was recommended by the White House, never delivered the ventilators.

Then there’s Jerome “Swift Boat” Corsi, looking to profit from some hydroxychloroquine treatment with an alleged doctor named “Zev” Zelenko, whose name Rudy Giuliani has coincidentally been peddling. These people are jackals.

[Regarding this story: Maryland called in National Guard troops to defend coronavirus tests from South Korea against seizure]

It’s a unique feature of Trump’s schizophrenic, bad-faith brand of federalism, by which everything not nailed down belongs to him and Jared Kushner in their personal capacities, that states now find it necessary to call on the national guard and state police to protect their shipments from the federal government.

Another view of federalism might see the federal government, given its access to intelligence and resources and agencies far exceeding the states’ capacities, place itself at the center of the national coronavirus testing. In that case hypothetical seizures of foreign tests might even be justified because the government would be distributing tests throughout the country to where they’re needed most, determinations based on need instead of self-interest.

Except Trump told the states they were on their own to procure everything from PPE to hospital equipment to tests. Then they bid against the states, seized shipments — even other federal agencies like the VA.

I get that normalcy is suddenly antiquated in light of this pandemic, but if Maryland’s (Republican) governor justifiably feels he needs to protect Maryland’s property from the federal government, going so far as to employ armed military and law enforcement, we’re not really living in the “United” States any more.

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