Testing testing
July 21, 2020

President Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity earlier in July that he "aced" a cognitive test at Walter Reed Medical Center "very recently," and Fox News anchor Chris Wallace did not seem overly impressed when Trump brought up the test again during his Fox News Sunday interview over the weekend. Wallace said he also took the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) test after Trump said he passed it, and "it's not the hardest test. It shows a picture and it says, 'what's that,' and it's an elephant."

"It's all misrepresentation, because yes, the first few questions are easy, but I'll bet you couldn't even answer the last five questions," Trump responded. "They get very hard, the last five questions. ... You couldn't answer many of the questions."

Dr. Ziad Nasreddine, who developed the MoCA test in 1996, told MarketWatch on Monday everyone is misrepresenting the test. "This is not an IQ test or the level of how a person is extremely skilled or not," he said. "The test is supposed to help physicians detect early signs of Alzheimer's." Certified doctors have to examine the test results, and not everyone who does poorly has early onset dementia, he added. If doctors have concerns, they typically ask the subject to take the test again in two months, or run other physical tests.

The MoCA test is "supposed to be easy for someone who has no cognitive impairment," Nasreddine told MarketWatch. "The purpose is to detect impairment; it's not meant to determine if someone has extremely high levels of abilities." However, he added, with Trump 74 and Joe Biden 77, concerns that either might have cognitive impairment or dementia "is a pertinent question, and it's not surprising that this is becoming an issue this election." Peter Weber

July 6, 2020

Phoenix is the epicenter of Arizona's growing COVID-19 outbreak, and Mayor Kate Gallego (D) said Sunday she's being hamstrung by Arizona's governor and the dearth of testing in Maricopa County. Lines to get tested are so long in Phoenix, she said, people are running out of gas while waiting in their cars, despite months of work on the city's part to increase testing capacity. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, for example, has rebuffed her testing help requests since April, Gallego told The New York Times.

"We are the largest city not to have received this type of investment," Gallego said, pointing to FEMA's community testing aid to Houston, Los Angeles, and other metropolitan areas. More than 20 percent of people tested in Arizona test positive for the coronavirus, she said, and "public health officials tell me that when you're doing the appropriate amount of testing, it should be around 2 percent."

An aide told the Times that FEMA most recently informed Gallego's office it is "getting out of the testing business," a point Gallego brought up on ABC News Sunday: "We were told they're moving away from that, which feels like they are declaring victory while we're still in crisis mode."

"This is not just a Phoenix problem," Gallego said. "I think many communities and people across both parties would like to see the federal government play a role." She dismissed assertions from the Trump administration that testing is readily available to anyone who wants it, but did have "one hopeful note," she told the Times on Sunday afternoon. After she raised the issue on TV, "the White House reached out and said they're interested in more information, and would try to see what they can do." Peter Weber

May 14, 2020

President Trump wants the U.S. to keep increasing its coronavirus testing capacity — but also keeps insisting that more testing is making the country "look bad."

While Trump has never doubted that COVID-19 tests are an important piece of re-establishing normalcy, he has also been wary of anything that would make the U.S.'s case count go up. He resisted letting cruise passengers back onto American soil after they'd likely contracted the disease months ago to keep the country's case total low and, as recently as Thursday, again suggested that testing is "overrated."

"We have the best testing in the world. Could be that testing is, frankly, overrated," Trump said Thursday at a medical supply facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Still, Trump acknowledged that he was in favor of increasing testing capacity no matter how "overrated it is," but that even when more testing happened, "they say 'we want more'" again. After all, Trump said, "if we didn't do any testing we would have very few cases" — or at least officially reported cases.

To New York Times opinion columnist Jamelle Bouie, this was just another example of Trump thinking "everything is a PR problem."

Earlier this week, Trump said that "in a way, by doing all this testing we make ourselves look bad," because it increases the number of verified COVID-19 cases in the U.S. But Trump has never said he wants to tone down the number of tests to improve his or the country's image. Kathryn Krawczyk

May 6, 2020

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday rejected the idea that every American should receive COVID-19 testing before returning to work.

President Trump has said he's been tested multiple times for COVID-19, with the tests all coming back negative. On Tuesday, he visited a Phoenix facility that makes masks, but did not have a face covering of his own. A reporter asked McEnany about this, adding, "Why shouldn't all Americans who go back to work be able to get a test before they do?"

"If we tested every single American in this country at this moment, we'd have to retest them an hour later, and then an hour later after that, because at any moment you could theoretically contract this virus," McEnany responded. "So the notion that everyone needs to be tested is just simply nonsensical."

Earlier in the day, Trump said the United States is continuously conducting more COVID-19 tests, so it will "have more cases" than other countries. "In a way, by doing all this testing, we make ourselves look bad," he added. Catherine Garcia

April 17, 2020

Coronavirus testing is one of the biggest things stopping the U.S. from reopening.

After weeks of continually upping its COVID-19 testing capacity, the U.S. seems to have hit a plateau of around 150,000 tests per day. President Trump and Republicans are still pushing to restart economic activity as soon as possible, but experts say the U.S. needs to at least double or triple its testing capacity before that can happen, NBC News reports.

The U.S. has had a severely limited COVID-19 testing capacity since the virus first appeared in the country. Tests are often limited to hospitalized patients, even though people can contract and spread the disease and show no symptoms, and hospitals have reported shortages in swabs and other supplies needed to conduct tests. As a result, only about 1 percent of the U.S. population has been tested, NBC News notes.

That dismal rate led Dr. Dan Hanfling, who worked in the National Healthcare Preparedness Program during the Obama and Trump administrations, to say "I don't think we're close" to being able to reopen the economy. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told Axios the U.S. needs to be performing 500,000 tests a day to consider reopening. Other experts tell NBC News that number should be more like millions or tens of millions of tests each day.

Without more tests, it won't be clear who can return to work and who needs to stay home longer, or where exactly the disease is spreading most rapidly — and that's to say nothing of coronavirus antibody tests that may paint a picture of resistance to the disease. Read more at NBC News. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 16, 2020

President Trump is expected to announce new guidelines Thursday encouraging some states to lift social distancing rules quickly, perhaps even before his May 1 aspirational goal post. Trump's health advisers and many of the business leaders on his new "Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups" agree the U.S. won't be ready to reopen on that schedule, The Wall Street Journal reports.

There seems to be a growing consensus about what needs to happen before the lockdowns are eased: A lot more testing, ample personal protective equipment (PPE), and effective contact tracing, for starters. "We can't move into the next phase of response before we are able to understand where this virus is, who has it, and to make sure to isolate cases," Crystal Watson at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security tells USA Today. The U.S. has conducted about 3 million tests, total, while some experts say tens of millions will be needed each week to safely manage a post-lockdown workforce.

Trump's conference calls Wednesday with business leaders — many of whom only learned they were on Trump's economic revival councils when he read their names on TV — produced little of substance, and no follow-up calls were scheduled, the Journal reports. One top executive described the call to Politico as a "s--t show," while another CEO said Trump needs to "stop talking about turning the economy back on and start talking about making people feel safe, things that are happening around testing and the health care system."

Even if the U.S. procures enough coronavirus tests, lifting restriction is up to individual governors, who are making their own gradual plans. "The notion that there's a control room in the West Wing and this group will gather around the president and say 'Go ahead press the button, sir, we're going to restart' — that's not how the U.S. economy works," Douglas Holtz-Eakin, chief economist for President George W. Bush, tells the Journal. Peter Weber

April 10, 2020

The Health and Human Services Department announced Thursday evening that it will no longer end support for community-based COVID-19 testing sites on Friday, as originally planned. "The federal government is not abandoning any of the community-based test sites," Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health, told reporters over the phone. "I want that to be loud and clear." Instead, the local authorities hosting the testing sites can decide whether to shift to running the program themselves, as HHS had envisioned, or continue getting federal assistance.

After a late, botched start, U.S. labs are processing thousands of coronavirus tests a day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. But "testing availability remains a signature failure of the battle against the coronavirus in the United States," and "as the virus has spread from state to state infecting hundreds of thousands of Americans, demand for testing has overwhelmed many labs and testing sites," The New York Times reports. "Doctors and officials around the country say lengthy delays in getting results have persisted and that continued uneven access to tests has prolonged rationing and hampered patient care." CNN looked at what went wrong in a Thursday night report.

Giroir said the 41 community testing sites around the country had proved a success, testing more than 77,000 people, mostly health-care workers and first responders, NPR reports. And given the enduring testing setbacks, the HHS decision to stop sending testing materials, protective equipment, and other support to the sites had surprised some people, including members of Congress. "I'm extremely relieved that HHS has reversed its decision," Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) told NPR. Peter Weber

May 11, 2017

There is nothing sweeter than reading an essay prompt and instantly feeling inspired. For many of the more than 500,000 students who took the AP English Language and Composition exam this year, that 'a-ha' moment made them think of President Trump.

The third exam prompt came from the essay "America the Illiterate" by Chris Hedges, BuzzFeed News reports, and it asked the students to reflect on the statement: "The most essential skill in political theater and the consumer culture is artifice. Those who are best at artifice succeed. Those who have not mastered the art of artifice fail."

The hashtag #APLang quickly became a forum for teens skewering Trump:

Of course, not everyone wrote exactly the same essay:

The test administrators should not be surprised by the response — the name "Trump" has been proven to not especially inspire people to think of nice words. Jeva Lange

See More Speed Reads