Trump's latest doozy: 'I haven't heard about testing being a problem'

If the president hasn't heard about virus testing being a problem, he must not be listening.
Image: A coronavirus testing site outside International Community Health Services during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Seattle
Nurse Tina Nguyen holds out a nasal swab for a patient at a coronavirus testing site outside International Community Health Services in the Chinatown-International District in Seattle on March 26, 2020.Lindsey Wasson / Reuters

The White House hosted a conference call with governors yesterday, giving Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) an opportunity to explain that his state doesn't have enough coronavirus tests to properly address the crisis. The governor made clear that he needed immediate assistance from the federal government.

As Rachel noted on last night's show, the president was incredulous. "I haven't heard about testing in weeks," Trump said on the call. "We've tested more now than any nation in the world. We've got these great tests.... I haven't heard about testing being a problem."

Of course, if the president hasn't heard about testing being a problem, he must not be listening. The New York Times reported:

Many people who have symptoms of the virus are still finding it difficult to be tested, and many who have been tested are waiting more than a week to get results.... Although testing has picked up since a series of setbacks left the United States behind, governors have continued to warn in recent days that their response is still hampered by shortages, including of basic supplies like swabs. Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, a Democrat, told CNN on Sunday that "we have a desperate need for the testing kits." And Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, also a Democrat, warned last week that there was a shortage of testing materials in his state.

Jay Inslee told the Times yesterday, "It would be shocking to me that if anyone who has had access to any newspaper, radio, social networks or any other communication would not be knowledgeable about the need for test kits. I can be assured that the White House knows very well about this desperate need for test kits."

All of which raises the question of why in the world the president is so confused about this basic, critical detail.

Last week, as part of a harangue against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), Trump said the Democratic governor "has no idea what's going on." It was among the president's more ironic attacks: those who understand "what's going on" realize, among other things, that state access to virus testing remains a serious issue in need of immediate attention.

As for Trump's contention that the United States has "tested more now than any nation in the world," the Republican still doesn't seem to fully appreciate the nature of population-based comparisons: as of late last week, South Korea, which reported its first coronavirus test the same day as the United States' first, has tested 40 times more people than we have, on a per-capita basis.

Trump added yesterday that U.S. testing is "very much on par" with South Korea testing. I wish that were true. It's not.

The sooner the president understands this, and tries to do something about it, the better.