The Many Things Trump’s Friday COVID-19 Presser Got Wrong

Surrounded by members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, US President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference on COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, ... Surrounded by members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, US President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference on COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, March 13, 2020. - Trump is declaring coronavirus a national emergency. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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March 16, 2020 2:20 p.m.
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Just how bad was it?

If you’re measuring as compared to reality, President Trump’s Friday presser missed the mark by a very, very wide margin.

Let’s break it down into two key areas.

President Trump and his gathered officials and CEOs made claims about two broad topics: the supposedly impending availability of mass coronavirus testing, and a website which would help effectuate that.

The first area saw President Trump insist that the Food and Drug Administration had granted expedited approval to Swiss drugmaker Roche for a test, making “up to half a million additional tests” available by early this week, according to Trump.

The tests offer quick results, with the company advertising a 3.5 hour turnaround time.

Well, it is now early this week. And according to a CNBC appearance by Roche CEO Severin Schwan this morning, around 400 tests will be available this week.

Okay, okay.

But a large part of the press conference dealt also with what appeared to be a national plan to install drive-through testing sites around the country, with a website to boot! The site, Trump explained, would be available on Sunday (yesterday), and would be capable of showing Americans where their nearing drive-through testing site would be.

It would done via a public-private partnership with Google, Trump explained, quickly delivering much-needed information to Americans who wish to get tested.

That was also a gross mischaracterization.

Google itself said in a statement on Monday, issued by the CEO of its parent company Alphabet, that the site would be focused on information and education.

The site is addressed to the entire U.S., but won’t offer testing locations: rather, it will display “links to authoritative information from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and helpful tips and tools from Google for individuals, teachers and businesses.”

Useful! But not what was promised.

A website similar to the one Trump described, and created by Google subsidiary Verily, does exist, in a fashion.

But it only works for Santa Clara and San Mateo counties in California, without offering information about anywhere else in the country.

And, even then, users who click through the site to the stage that supposedly shows where to get tested land on a page saying that it’s impossible to schedule any testing.

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