Trump’s Coronavirus Testing Chart Doesn’t Show the Success He Thinks It Does

President Donald Trump at a White House briefing on April 6.Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The coronavirus is a rapidly developing news story, so some of the content in this article might be out of date. Check out our most recent coverage of the coronavirus crisis, and subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

During his daily coronavirus task force briefing on April 6, President Trump tried to push back against reports that COVID-19 tests remain hard to get and that the United States is still lagging behind other countries in testing. “It’s going up at a rapid rate,” he said, referring to the bar chart behind him. “Nobody has done more testing.”  

A quick look at the chart suggested that the number of tests being given in the United States has shot up dramatically over the past month—and Trump’s gloss on the numbers implied the same. Yet as cartoonist Ruben Bolling pointed out on his Instagram feed, the chart showed the cumulative number of tests, which obscured whether the number of daily tests is going up rapidly, as Trump had boasted. Bolling helpfully remade the chart to show the less impressive number of tests actually being done day to day:

Ruben Bolling

As you can see in the chart below, the number of daily coronavirus tests has remained relatively small—around 162,000 on April 9, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. Yet the overall numbers keep rising even when the number of daily tests drops. In the week before Trump displayed his chart, the number of daily tests ranged from around 107,000 to a one-day spike of 229,000. 

Daily vs. total COVID-19 tests in the United States

As of April 6, just 0.6 percent of the US population had gotten a coronavirus test. Exactly a month earlier, Trump had gushed, “Anybody that needs a test, gets a test. They’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful.” Even a big beautiful bar chart can’t bend the curve of the disappointing reality.

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate