Trump: 'If we didn't do testing, we'd have no cases'

If we didn't do testing, we'd still have a staggering number of coronavirus cases, but we wouldn't know about them. Trump seems to struggle with this.
Image: Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Seattle
A physician administers a test for coronavirus at a mobile testing site run by Swedish Medical Center in Seattle on April 29, 2020.David Ryder / Reuters file

In early May, Donald Trump argued, "If we did very little testing, we wouldn't have the most cases." Soon after, the president tweaked his position, arguing, "If we didn't do any testing, we would have very few cases.... It's common sense."

Last night, in his latest Fox News event, Trump took the next step.

"If we didn't do testing, we'd have no cases.... When you do tests, you have cases."

It's hard not to wonder sometimes whether the president appreciates how object permanence works. The testing identifies infections, but the testing doesn't create the infections. If we didn't do testing, the United States would still have a staggering number of coronavirus cases, but we wouldn't know about them.

As we recently discussed, by Trump's reasoning, we'd have few instances of breast cancer if only we stopped doing mammograms. We'd also wipe out glaucoma by ending eye exams. Ignorance is apparently the cure-all we've been waiting for.

The White House has invested a fair amount of time this week into a related pitch: the only reason the number of cases is growing is that the number of tests is also growing. This argument might be more persuasive if it weren't completely wrong.

But I tend to think "if we didn't do testing, we'd have no cases" is worse.

All of this, incidentally, comes on the heels of Trump insisting that he wasn't kidding when he said he'd directed White House officials to "slow the testing down" for public-relations purposes. The president said largely the opposite last night, telling Sean Hannity, "[S]ometimes I jokingly say or sarcastically say: If we didn't do tests, we'd look great. But you know what? It's not the right thing to do."

NBC News reported this week that the Trump administration "is planning to end its funding and support for coronavirus testing sites at the end of the month."

And I remain convinced he doesn't know what "sarcasm" means.