Cause, effect and the need to test for COVID-19 | Marsha Mercer

Estelle Sidler

Marsha Mercer A wise editor of mine used to say, “Wet streets don’t cause rain.” John’s point, of course, was not to confuse cause and effect. I’ve thought about his warning often since President Donald Trump began his counter-narrative about coronavirus testing. As the number of positive cases of COVID-19 […]



Marsha Mercer

Marsha Mercer


A wise editor of mine used to say, “Wet streets don’t cause rain.”

John’s point, of course, was not to confuse cause and effect. I’ve thought about his warning often since President Donald Trump began his counter-narrative about coronavirus testing.

As the number of positive cases of COVID-19 soared this summer, Trump repeatedly blamed the tests for causing the cases.

Testing “makes us look bad,” he tweeted in June.

At the Tulsa rally a few days later, he said, “I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’”

His aides tried to pass that remark off as a joke, but Trump said, “I don’t kid.”

“Cases, Cases, Cases! If we didn’t test so much and so successfully, we would have very few cases,” he tweeted in July.

And, he told reporters, “When you test you create cases.”

That’s all wrong. Pregnancy tests don’t create babies.

Not only the number of cases but the positivity rate — the percentage of tests coming back positive — also soared in many places.

“A higher percent positive suggests higher transmission and that there are likely more people with coronavirus in the community who haven’t been tested yet,” the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health said, noting it may be a time to add restrictions to slow spread of the disease.

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