Report: Trump Hasn’t Pushed For Coronavirus Testing To Keep Case Numbers Low
President Donald Trump opted against pushing for aggressive coronavirus testing in recent weeks in hopes of keeping case numbers low and preserving his chances at reelection, according to Politico reporter Dan Diamond.
Speaking on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, Diamond said Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar went to Trump in January, pushing “past resistance from the president's political aides to warn the president the new coronavirus could be a major problem.”
“There were aides around Trump - Kellyanne Conway had some skepticism at times that this was something that needed to be a presidential priority,” Diamond said. “But at the same time, Secretary Azar has not always given the president the worst-case scenario of what could happen.”
Then came the bombshell: “My understanding is [Trump] did not push to do aggressive additional testing in recent weeks, and that's partly because more testing might have led to more cases being discovered of coronavirus outbreak, and the president had made clear - the lower the numbers on coronavirus, the better for the president, the better for his potential reelection this fall.”
Diamond’s revelations came amid a broader discussion of the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, which has been criticized from both sides of the aisle for being slow and incompetent.
One of the issues the health policy and politics reporter pointed to was the president’s insistence on playing down the crisis for so many weeks.
“On Wednesday night, nearly two months after the first U.S. case of novel coronavirus was detected, President Trump finally treated this outbreak with the seriousness it deserves,” Diamond said. “He's given press conferences where he said the cases would effectively go away. He has posted tweets, even on Monday where he compared this to the flu.”
“his is not the flu,” he added. “The flu does not lead the National Basketball Association, the NBA, to suspend its season.”
Trump also showed concern over the number of coronavirus cases publicly last week during his visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Georgia, saying he did not want passengers on a cruise ship to dock in the U.S. because numbers would increase.
“Trump has made it clear he wants low numbers,” Gross noted, moving on to discuss the cruise ship. “He didn't want people who tested positive from a cruise ship to be evacuated and then quarantined because the numbers would go up, and he didn't want those numbers to go up. It would look bad; it would make him look bad. So what do you think the most consequential decisions he's made so far are in terms of the virus, decisions for better or worse?”
“It was a remarkable statement for a president to say,” Diamond responded. “The president has been obsessed with the numbers, obsessed with the optics of how this looks, which is not what you want the U.S. president to be focused on.”