President Donald Trump has frequently bragged about the amount of testing being conducted across the United States in response to COVID-19 — but a recent study from New York University suggests that the testing going on within the White House itself is faulty.
The White House utilizes a testing kit from Abbott Laboratories called the ID NOW test, administering COVID-19 tests on everyone who might come into contact with the president, including governors, lawmakers, reporters and other dignitaries visiting 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Researchers at NYU say that specific test is flawed, however, given that it frequently sends back negative results for individuals who have otherwise tested positive for COVID-19.
According to their findings, at least one-third, and as many as 48 percent, of tests used in the ID NOW test present a false negative result, compared to other tests where nasal swabs are used. In other words, close to half of the results from the Abbott Laboratories test may not be trustworthy.
Abbott objected to the researchers’ findings, saying they didn’t conduct the tests as instructed, and maintained that its testing error rate is as low as 0.02 percent. Trump himself has cast the ID NOW test in a positive light, describing it as delivering “lightning-fast results in as little as five minutes.” In March, Trump called it “a whole new ballgame” in testing.
Trump also compared the Abbott test to the nasal swab alternative, describing that sort of testing for COVID-19 as “nothing pleasant” to take part in.
If the results of the test are indeed unreliable, however, it could mean that many in the White House might have contracted COVID-19 without realizing it yet, as at least two individuals in Trump’s proximity have tested positive so far for the disease.
Even though everyone who comes into contact with him gets tested, the president has downplayed the need for widespread testing across the United States, arguing that a 2 percent test rate in each state is all that is required. However, other studies have shown that, in order to understand the extent to which the disease has spread, a minimum of 900,000 tests per day across the country is needed, a rate that’s three times higher than the number currently being tested per day.
In recent days, Trump has bragged about the number of tests being conducted in the U.S., falsely suggesting that the rate is among the best in the world. When confronted by CBS News White House correspondent Weijia Jiang about why he felt it was necessary to frame testing as a “global competition” when thousands of Americans are dying from coronavirus, Trump told her to “ask China” that question, a response that many decried as racist.
More than 84,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 as of Wednesday at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. The Trump administration, however, may be looking at ways to change how deaths are reported in order to make that number appear smaller than it actually is.