President Donald Trump said Monday that there would be very few cases of the coronavirus if the US stopped its testing and contact tracing.
“If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, actually,” the president said during a roundtable event for seniors.
This isn’t the first time Trump has remarked on how less testing would result in fewer publicly reported cases.
“So the media likes to say we have the most cases, but we do, by far, the most testing. If we did very little testing, we wouldn’t have the most cases. So in a way, by doing all of this testing, we make ourselves look bad,” Trump said last month during a meeting with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.
“For instance, they would say we have more than China. I don’t think so. We have more than other countries. I don’t think so. But by doing all of the testing … we’re going to have more cases because we do more testing. Otherwise, you don’t know if you have a case. I think that’s a correct statement,” Trump added.
The president expressed a similar sentiment in March, telling Fox News that he didn’t want infected patients from a cruise ship to disembark because it would increase the number of reported cases in the US.
“I like the numbers being where they are,” Trump said at the time. “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.”
His comment on Monday comes as multiple states across the country are seeing spikes in confirmed cases as they relax social-distancing guidelines and begin reopening their economies.
To date, more than 2.1 million people in the US have tested positive for the virus, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 116,000 Americans have died from the disease, which the World Health Organization declared a pandemic in March.
New York, Washington, and California were initially hot spots in the US outbreak, but the states saw a gradual decline in new infections, hospitalizations, and deaths as their respective governors shut down their economies and imposed strict stay-at-home orders for nonessential employees.
Now, as states ease lockdown measures and reopen businesses, public-health experts say an increase in confirmed cases will follow. The spike will also likely be exacerbated because of nationwide protests against racism and police brutality in the wake of the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd in police custody.
There’s been a significant increase in new infections across the country over the past two weeks, particularly in the Sun Belt and the West.
States like Florida, Oklahoma, Arizona, Arkansas, and South Carolina have seen upticks in new cases. According to NPR, there was a 185% increase in new cases in Oklahoma as of Monday morning compared with two weeks ago. South Carolina saw a 156% increase, and Arizona saw a 145% increase.
Arkansas, Oregon, Florida, and Nevada all had increases of more than 100% compared with two weeks ago, while Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Utah had increases between 39 and 60%.
Rural states could be hit particularly hard if new cases go up because rural communities have, on average, an older population, more underlying health conditions, and fewer economic resources than their urban counterparts, Carrie Henning-Smith, the deputy director of the University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center, told CBC Radio.
Rural areas are also more likely to be home to facilities that could become coronavirus hot spots, like nursing homes, meat-packing plants, and prisons, Henning-Smith said.