I’ll lead with two things to note. First, the number of positives in a sample is more than just the number of tests. The Trump and his sickophants get this wrong. Second, when Trump says something patently false and/or over-the-top offensive, he or his communication people take refuge in calling it a “joke”. The thing is, 120,000 dead is no joke.
Regarding point #1: David Vernon, Ph.D., wrote a LTE in the Star saying Dr. Christ needs a math lesson
Our state health director says that when you test more, you get more cases, accounting for the increasing numbers of COVID–19 diagnoses over the past few weeks. However, it is not just the absolute number of cases, it is the percentage of positives among those tested that is going up. One learns in statistics class that the proportion of positives in a valid sample is not a function of sample size, but a function of population incidence.
More testing does not produce a higher proportion of positives; if the incidence remains the same the ratio of positives to negatives in the sample remains the same, even at 100% population testing. Absolutely, mathematically, the incidence of COVID–19 in Arizona is increasing, not due to testing but due to spreading of the virus, as mitigation practices are loosened in the name of economics.
We still have no treatment and no cure. The fatality rate remains between 5 and 10% of those infected. How many deaths will be economic?
Regarding point #2: Justin Baragona, Contributing Editor at the Daily Beast, reports CNN Anchor Corners Trump Campaign Spox: Are Dead Americans ‘Funny to You?’ Murtaugh attempted to frame Trump’s testing slowdown remarks as a joke, prompting CNN’s Brianna Keilar to push back and ask why the deadly pandemic was funny.
CNN anchor Brianna Keilar took Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh to task on Monday, repeatedly pressing him to defend Team Trump’s claim that the president was just “kidding” when he claimed over the weekend that he asked his administration to slow down coronavirus testing.
During his sparsely attended Tulsa rally on Saturday night, President Donald Trump told his supporters that he called on officials to slow COVID–19 testing in order to decrease the number of confirmed cases in the country. A White House official later told The Daily Beast that Trump was “obviously kidding” and Trump aide Peter Navarro claimed on Sunday that the remarks were “tongue-in-cheek.”
In a contentious Monday interview that also featured the CNN anchor grilling Murtaugh on Trump’s recent use of the racist phrase “Kung Flu,” Keilar brought up Trump’s testing comments, asking whether it was true that Trump wanted to slow it down as America passes 120,000 COVID–19 deaths.
No, it’s not. As a matter of fact, the United States leads the world in testing,” Murtaugh replied, prompting Keilar to immediately wonder why Trump was saying that.
“I understand there’s not much of a sense of humor at CNN center,” Murtaugh sneered. ”But the president was joking. He tried to illustrate the point that when you expand testing, you will naturally expand the number of positive cases that you detect.”
[Scriber: See math lesson above.]
“That was the very point he was making,” he continued. “I’m not surprised that you’re either unable or unwilling to understand the president had a tongue-in-cheek remark there. But that’s the point he’s making.”
Keilar, meanwhile, pointed out that there are now “120,000 Americans dead,” adding: “I do not think that is funny. Do you think that is funny?”
After Murtaugh reiterated the president was just trying to “illustrate the point” about expanded testing, the CNN anchor pointed out that he just said “it’s a joke.”
Stammering, the Trump spokesperson said that one can “use ironic humor” in these situations, prompting Keilar to again interject.
“Is dead Americans, is unemployed Americans, is that funny to you?” Keilar dryly noted.
“You can ask it 100 different ways,” Murtaugh retorted, causing the CNN host to fire back: “And you won’t answer it.”
The Trump flack would go on to repeat his talking points about the president making a factual point about increased testing resulting in more confirmed cases, leaving Keilar with the final word.
"You are aware that hospitalization numbers disprove what you are saying,” she proclaimed. “That testing does not solely account for the numbers we’re seeing, including in Florida, a state you just held up as a model when it certainly is not.”
“It is not funny that Americans are dying, she concluded as a stone-faced Murtaugh stood silent. “It’s not funny that they’re unemployed. Tim Murtaugh, thank you for coming on.”
An afterthought: Actions matter!
Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports Trump tells supporters he pushed to ‘slow down’ virus testing. Either Trump was telling an ugly truth, or he was joking about a deadly virus as the death toll in his own country tops 120,000.
… it’s important to emphasize that the president’s public rhetoric matters, but his administration’s actions matter more. With this in mind, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, And Pensions Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) yesterday sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar with a striking claim.
According to the Democratic leaders, a recent emergency aid package approved by Congress included $25 billion to expand coronavirus testing and contact tracing capacity, but the Trump administration has only allocated about a third of the available funds.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) responded soon after, “From the beginning, the lack of a response hasn’t been an accident. It’s been by design. His plan has been to let people die. This guy is a danger and a menace and it’s wild that now he just admits this openly and believes no one will care.”