The Argument That Increased COVID Cases Are ‘Only Due To More Testing’ Is Just Plain Stupid
Donald Trump continues to reiterate his absurd stance on the relationship between COVID-19 testing and positive cases. He’s tweeted several times about it, using his tried-and-true tactic of repeating the same narrative over and over in the hopes that people will eventually come to see it as true even when it flies in the face of reason.
“So massive and so good,” he says, once again employing the vocabulary of someone on the receiving end of impressively sized penetration in a badly written hardcore porn film.
On June 15, at an event for seniors at the White House, he said, “If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any.”
OMG you guys, I have an idea. Let’s stop testing for cancer. BOOM, I just cured cancer. Wow, I’m a genius!
Any kindergartner can understand that casting a wider net catches more fish. We all can understand that the more you test for anything, the more cases you will find, whether it’s cancer or depression or ADHD.
Duh, Mr. Trump, you incompetent sack of damp yeast.
Trump is either too stupid to understand the nuance of statistics or he understands the data perfectly well and is counting on the likelihood that his frothing-at-the-mouth followers don’t.
Here’s the (quite frankly obvious) nuance that Trump is either too stupid to grasp or is intentionally leaving out: The two metrics we need to follow are, first, the number of tests, and second, the number of positives.
It’s called the positivity rate. If the positivity rate is too high, not only does it mean the virus is more prevalent in the community, it is also an indication of many more positive cases going untested.
I am perfectly aware that I’m preaching to the choir right now. If you read this publication, and if you clicked this link, you likely already comprehend this nuance. I’ll spell it out anyway in case you want to use the explanations here to help you argue with anti-maskers and virus-deniers.
Why do we test?
Contrary to what our president says, we don’t test just to “see how many” cases we have. Of course, that’s part of it, but the more critical reasons for testing are to learn the rate of community spread and to identify confirmed cases so we can track down their close contacts and ask them to isolate so as to stop further spread. This is called contact tracing, and other countries have used it with great success to flatten the curve. We’ve done a slipshod job of it thanks to our rotting pumpkin of a president.
I mean, look at these charts from Johns Hopkins as of July 3. Check out those percent positive numbers. The number of new cases is outpacing the number of tests being done. That’s a big problem. It means COVID-19 is becoming more prevalent in a population. It absolutely is not a simple function of more tests capturing more positives. The percent positive number is extremely relevant, and it’s the number that Trump is sure his followers are too dimwitted to grasp.
A rising percent positive number indicates an increasing rate of community spread.
And if anyone gives you the line, “But death rates are falling!” bonk them on the head with a six-foot pole and remind them that death rates always lag behind testing. It goes: positive cases → ICUs fill up (yep, this is happening!) → people fucking die.
Each step has a lag time of approximately two weeks, people. This is real basic logic. It’s not string theory.
And if anyone tells you, “But these cases are mostly young people!” bonk them again on the head with a six-foot pole and remind them that those young people spread the virus to elderly or high-risk people because they think they’re invincible and because they’re self-absorbed AF. This also has a lag time of two weeks. All these young people who aren’t worried they’re gonna die? They’re coughing on the eggplants at your local grocery.
Testing Will Ultimately Help The Economy
When it comes to Trump, the irony is that he’s ramming his big orange cabbage head into the sand and encouraging others to do the same because he thinks he’s saving the economy when in fact he’s doing the opposite. If Trump had listened to experts from the beginning, if he’d told everyone to quarantine for two weeks, if after that he’d publicly encouraged everyone to wear masks (if he’d made this possible by incentivizing textile companies to shift to the making of masks and other PPE), if he’d set up a nationalized system of rigorous contact tracing, we’d be fucking done with this. Really. We would be done. The economy would have already bounced back and we’d be going about business almost as normal, albeit while wearing masks, but we sure as Yosemite Sam would not be seeing these massive spikes in places like Arizona, Florida, and Texas, where ICU’s are filling up and non-emergent procedures are being cancelled so that doctors can handle the influx of sick people.
But, sadly, what’s done is done and we can’t undo it. Now we need to worry about how to handle this utter disaster moving forward. Trump would like everyone to believe that testing for COVID-19 is a threat to the economy, when exactly the opposite is true. If everyone is sick, how will they work? Teachers? Doctors? Nurses? Grocery store workers? Not testing is the real threat to the economy. We need to know where cases are rising and with whom. We need to trace contacts and quarantine folks who’ve been exposed. Again, this is not complicated logic. It’s common fucking sense.
Back in April, the World Health Organization published guidelines for how to manage outbreaks, and *insert maniacal laughter here* the United States has followed very few of them. The few guidelines we did follow, we did so spottily and noncommittally. We are an international laughing stock.
Testing is not “a double edged sword” as Trump has stupidly claimed. It’s a necessary tool to manage the spread of COVID-19. And anyone who commits to believing that a rise in cases is no more than a reflection of increased testing is just as delusional as our president.
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