AP FACT CHECK: Trump won't admit failures in virus testing

CALVIN WOODWARD
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Virus Outbreak Congress

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., listens to questions during a news conference on Capitol Hill, Thursday, April 30, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump was displeased when the Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress joined in a statement declining to use coronavirus testing machines from the White House for lawmakers. The statement affirmed what U.S. officials already know but Trump won't admit — the U.S. is still short of the tests crucial to ending the pandemic.

Trump responded to their statement with a falsehood.

TRUMP: “Interesting? By Congress not wanting the special 5 minute testing apparatus, they are saying that they are not ‘essential’. In any event, we have great testing capacity, and have performed 6.5 million tests, which is more than every country in the world, combined!” — tweet Monday.

THE FACTS: This is not remotely true.

The U.S. has tested far fewer people than all other countries combined. It also lags dozens of countries in testing its population proportionally.

Together, just three countries — Russia, Germany and Italy -- have tested about 9.4 million people, compared with about 7.2 million in the United States, by the latest count. The next six countries in the ranking have each tested more than 1 million. And the count does not include China, the world’s most populous country and the one where the virus started, because it has not reported national numbers.

In their weekend statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell together thanked Trump for offering to send over rapid-test machines from the White House but “respectfully” declined.

“Our country’s testing capacities are continuing to scale up nationwide and Congress wants to keep directing resources to the front-line facilities where they can do the most good the most quickly," they said. The polite pushback underscored the persistent U.S. failure to make diagnostic testing available in sufficient numbers, a shortfall also experienced on Capitol Hill.

The Senate convened Monday for the first time since March while the House held off.

Trump relentlessly boasts about U.S. testing in the face of its striking shortcomings. “We have an incredible testing,” he said Sunday in a Fox News interview. “We have the best testing system, right now, in the world.”

The total number of tests performed country to country is a poor measure of success because populations obviously differ hugely. On a more telling measure — the proportion of a country's population that gets tested — the U.S. was not only late getting started but is still way behind.

More than 40 other countries have tested a greater proportion of their populations than has the United States. Some are geographically compact, making people easier to reach, but the world's two largest countries by area, Russia and Canada, are among those that have outperformed the U.S.

So have Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia and dozens more. China remains a question mark. The U.S now has surpassed South Korea in proportional as well as total testing. Trump specifically bragged about his country doing better than South Korea in testing people before that was so.

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EDITOR’S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.

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