Author: Anuhya Banerjee
Amidst the pandemic, many claims from across the world have been made towards the nature of COVID-19 and testing. In fact, when addressing the nation in numerous press conferences and rallies, President Donald Trump and some White House officials have continually stated that more testing creates more cases. On July 4th, Trump tweeted, “Cases, Cases, Cases! If we didn’t test so much and so successfully, we would have very few cases.” Though as many Americans struggle to come to conclusions based on what politicians and scientists have said about the virus, a common question remains of the validity of that statement.
Is the claim correct?
Not all of President Trump’s allies and staffers agree with his widespread statements that higher amounts of testing create a higher number of cases. This basis doesn’t tell the whole story, because by simple logic if we tested less, there would indeed be a lower number of reported COVID cases. Note the word reported. With less progressive testing, the American people unfortunately would be even more misinformed on the data of actual case counts. It’s a similar argument that if we stopped diagnosing diseases like cancer, then cancer would just happen to go away within the population.
The reality that many scientists have asserted is the rationale that even less testing would result in more cases because it is not just a test for numbers. Rather these numbers are used to implement many fighting tools against the virus and allow awareness for those who test positive, especially those coming into contact with at-risk groups or asymptomatic individuals unknowingly spreading the virus. While the United States struggles in the forward plans to reopen for many states, contact tracing is one of the key factors that can greatly decrease the virus transmission. Only, this tracing depends heavily on COVID testing information as well as the American people’s knowledge.
If the claim is not true, then why is it continuously supported by some officials?
South Korea and Germany’s handle of the pandemic are examples that many people have looked towards for answers in this situation. In late June, Trump went on Fox News and said, “So Germany is going to show fewer cases because they're testing far fewer people -- different-sized countries and all, but they're testing far fewer people”. The population difference makes an impact, however, so does their need for testing individual months after the outbreak first occurred. These countries both suppressed the virus aggressively with strict regulations and thus required less testing. Infectious disease expert Dr. Hans-Georg Kräusslich at the University of Heidelberg in Germany stated that testing is based on medical needs such as symptoms, though the country itself had a true low infection rate which is why they did not require full testing capacity. Deception in comparisons and statistics of other nations reported to the American public is widespread, which is why the claim is still accepted by misinformed individuals.