Trump Dismisses Idea of Testing Entire Nation, Fires Back When Asked How Many Deaths Are Acceptable: ‘None, OK? None’


During a testy exchange with a White House reporter, President Donald Trump dismissed the idea of implementing a nationwide testing campaign for coronavirus before restarting the economy and then curtly shot back “None, OK? None,” when asked how many deaths from the pandemic would be acceptable.

Trump’s tense back-and-forth with the reporter came during Wednesday’s coronavirus task force briefing. The reporter began by bringing up comments from Dr. Ashish K. Jha, director of the Global Health Institute at Harvard, who said the fastest way to restart the economy would be test everything nearly every American, to identify all individuals in need of quarantine or isolation, and then allow everyone else to go back to work immediately.

Jha made his comments during an NPR interview on Sunday, where he sharply criticized the Trump administration’s slow response and called it out for continuing to ration tests, saying”we’re still far behind.” Jha went to recommend a massive testing campaign that was two to three times larger than the current rate, so the country could quickly quarantine and treat as many infected individuals as possible.

“Would you subscribe to that strategy?” Trump was asked.

“No,” Trump said. “But we have tested more than anybody.”

“And if not, how many deaths are acceptable?”

“How many…? None,” Trump began, before grimacing at the question and looking directly at the reporter. “How deaths are acceptable to me? None, OK? None. If that’s your question.”

But the notion that some people may have to make great sacrifices, including risking their lives, so the nation’s shuttered economy can restart soon has become a frequent talking point among some Trump surrogatesRepublican politicians, and conservative media figures in the past two days,

“Look, I saw him. I saw his statement,” Trump continued, referring to Jha. “We have tested by far more than anybody. We’re testing more than anybody right now. There is nobody even close.”

“But if you’re saying we’re going test 350 million people, I watched his statement. I disagree with it,” Trump said, without offering any medical or epidemiological counterargument.

“We could go to certain states, I could name them now, but I’m not going do it. Well can go to certain states right now. They have virtually no problem or a very small problem,” Trump claimed. “We don’t have to test the entire state in the Middle West or wherever they may be. We don’t have to test the entire state. I think it’s ridiculous. We don’t have to do it. A lot of those states could go back right now, and they probably will, because at some point in the not too distant future, certain states are going to come off the rolls. Maybe New York can’t and maybe California can’t. Maybe the state of Washington can’t, although if you look at them, their biggest problem was in one nursing home.”

“But the states are silent,” the reporter pointed out, noting that outbreaks can shift and double back as asymptomatic, infected people move about. “And so, if you test one state and the person moves over to the other state…”

“Well, you know, you’re going to just look at that,” Trump offered without answering the question. “But if you take a look at the states, many states that I’m talking about, they don’t have a problem. We have some big problems, but it’s confined to certain areas, high density areas. So why would we test the entire nation, 350 million people? With that being said, I’m going say it again. We tested far more than anybody else.”

Watch the video above, via MSNBC.

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