Surplus of coronavirus tests throws a wrench in media’s anti-Trump narrative

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For weeks now there’s been no shortage of Trump administration critics in the ‘mainstream media’ complaining there are too few coronavirus tests available to track and gauge the level of infection around the country.

Democrats in Congress have echoed the same sentiment, blasting the administration for its failure to create, ahead of time, 100 million tests for an as-yet-unknown novel coronavirus that originated in China.

In any event, the Trump administration went from zero tests to millions of tests in about 60 days, which, by any measure, is an amazing accomplishment. And now, most places around the country have plenty of tests that provide quick, accurate results.

What they don’t have, however, are enough people who actually want to be tested.

What’s the deal? How come there aren’t more people clamoring for tests that Democrats and their media propagandists claim are so important to ‘reopening the country?’

“Well, that’s the million-dollar question,” Utah Health Department spokesman Tom Hudachko told the Washington Post.

“It could be simply that people don’t want to be tested. It could be that people feel like they don’t need to be tested. It could be that people are so mildly symptomatic that they’re just not concerned that having a positive lab result would actually change their course in any meaningful way.”

There are other reasons why people may not want to be tested, the paper reported, citing additional experts. They include the continued belief among many that tests are still scarce (where would people get that idea — from Democrats and the media, perhaps?), less access in rural parts of the country, and outright distrust in the testing process.

The Post adds:

Another major hurdle: lingering confusion about who qualifies. In the earliest days of the outbreak, Americans were told that only the sickest and most vulnerable should get tested while others should stay home. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed its guidelines to offer tests to people without symptoms who are referred by local health departments or clinicians.

There are some states that have dramatically relaxed testing restrictions. In Georgia, for instance, Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, is encouraging “all Georgians, even if they are not experiencing symptoms, to schedule an appointment” to be tested.

In Oklahoma, another Republican governor, Kevin Stitt, has urged his citizens to “call 2-1-1 and find a location close to you, even if you don’t have symptoms and you’re just curious.”

“A lot of states put in very, very restrictive testing policies . . . because they didn’t have any tests. And they’ve either not relaxed those, or the word is not getting out,” Ashish Jha, who leads the Harvard Global Health Institute, told the Post. “We want to be at a point where everybody who has mild symptoms is tested. That is critical. That is still not happening in a lot of places.”

In all, the paper said, there are about a dozen states where the ability to test far exceeds the number of people who want to be tested.

While sitting on a mountain of unused tests, the Los Angeles mayor lifted stiff restrictions for those without symptoms.  While the city experienced a temporary rise in testing, it still sits on thousands of unused tests every week, The Associated Press reported.

A Trump administration estimate leaked to the Post indicates the U.S. can conduct in the neighborhood of 400,000 tests per day, and perhaps many more. But only a few states are testing at capacity, indicating that people just aren’t stepping up — either because they don’t think they need to or because they just aren’t having symptoms.

Also, some states have artificially inflated testing numbers, including Virginia.

In late April, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s ‘coronavirus response team’ admitted to inflating the state’s testing numbers in announcing a sudden 15 percent spike in numbers.

“You need to know the exact number of tests not the number of people who had tests,” Dr. Daniel Carey, Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources, told reporters at the time.

What that means is that more tests are being done on the same people; if one person was tested three times, the state counts it as three tests — providing a false impression that greater numbers of people are being screened.

And Virginia isn’t the only state doing this; North Carolina uses the same method.

As Nate Silver wrote at FiveThirtyEight, misleading test results can lead to misguided assistance policies:

In many parts of the world today, health authorities are still trying to triage the situation with a limited number of tests available. Their goal in testing is often to allocate scarce medical care to the patients who most need it — rather than to create a comprehensive dataset for epidemiologists and statisticians to study.

But if you’re not accounting for testing patterns, it can throw your conclusions entirely out of whack. You don’t just run the risk of being a little bit wrong: Your analysis could be off by an order of magnitude. Or even worse, you might be led in the opposite direction of what is actually happening.

At this point, it seems there are more than enough tests in the vast majority of the country. But no matter how often mainstream media types and Democrats screech about ‘more testing,’ they can’t make people get them.


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Jon Dougherty


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