Testing testing
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

October 24, 2015

President Obama called for capping standardized testing at 2 percent of classroom time in a video released on the White House's Facebook page Saturday.

"Learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble," he said. "So we're going to work with states, school districts, teachers, and parents to make sure that we're not obsessing about testing."

Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan plan to meet Monday with teachers and school officials who support less testing time, The Associated Press reports.

Watch Obama's comments here. Julie Kliegman

July 9, 2015

India's Supreme Court has ordered an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into a "multimillion-dollar college admission and government job recruitment scandal" that has left close to 50 involved dead from mysterious circumstances, The Associated Press reports. Known as the "Vyapam scam," hundreds of parents and students in Madhya Pradesh state have been arrested for paying bribes or hiring proxies to take qualifying exams for top colleges and jobs as government teachers, doctors, bankers, and policemen. More than 2,500 have been accused in connection with the scam and 1,900 of that number have been arrested, according to NPR.

Nearly 50 witnesses or participants in the scam have died over the past five years. Last week, an investigative journalist who was interviewing witnesses in Madhya Pradesh died and the next day, the dean of a medical college was found dead in a hotel room. Many of the deaths have been ruled inconclusive in autopsies, with the home minister of the state claiming the deaths are due to "natural causes," despite many of the dead being under 40.

Though the Vyapam scam dates back to at least 2007, it took until Thursday for a CBI investigation to finally be ordered by the court. Jeva Lange

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