I don’t think there’s a single news-consuming person left in America that doesn’t know the country is currently short on tests for COVID-19. What’s truly remarkable, then, is when one of the professionals responsible for reporting the news suggests healthy people ought to waste COVID tests.
It’s somewhat less remarkable when you consider that there’s a Trump angle to the story, however.
Jim Sciutto is one of CNN’s newsroom anchors and the network’s chief national security correspondent. He was, unsurprisingly, tweeting President Trump’s news conference where the president announced a national emergency due to coronavirus.
During the news conference, Trump said that COVID tests — previously sparse due to the fact that the test developed by the Centers for Disease Control turned out to be faulty — would be readily available. He also made it clear that it wasn’t a test everyone should be taking.
“Today we’re announcing a new partnership with the private sector to vastly increase and accelerate our capacity to test for the coronavirus. We want to make sure that those who need a test can get a test it very safely, quickly and conveniently,” Trump said at the Friday news conference.
“But we don’t want people to take a test if we feel that they shouldn’t be doing it. We don’t want everyone running out and taking it, only if you have certain symptoms.”
He added, “We’ve been in discussions with pharmacies and retailers to make drive-through tests available in the critical locations identified by public health professionals. The goal is for individuals to be able to drive up and be swabbed without having to leave your car.”
“Again, we don’t want everyone taking this test. It’s totally unnecessary,” he added.
This seemed like common sense to everyone but Jim Sciutto.
“Again, we don’t want everyone taking this test,” says Trump.
On what medical basis?
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) March 13, 2020
“’Again, we don’t want everyone taking this test,’ says Trump,” Sciutto tweeted. “On what medical basis?”
“On what medical basis?” Trump made it clear during the speech that while millions of coronavirus test kits would be ready shortly, there was still going to be a period of shortage.
Trump said in the speech that 5 million tests would be available within a month, which he hoped was more than needed. There are over 300 million people in the country. Forget about trusting scientists, how about trusting basic math?
But then again, Sciutto actually thinks that Trump just wants to “keep the number of confirmed cases down.”
One consistent feature of Trump’s response is a stated desire to keep the number of confirmed cases down.
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) March 13, 2020
Sciutto was blasted for his question — and the implication that any American who wanted a test should feel justified in getting one, even if it meant diverting scarce resources away from where they are most needed.
You think 330 million people should get tested?
— Samuel Culper 722 (@politiwars) March 13, 2020
Bc high risk people need the tests. People with compromised immune systems. Not the hysterical nut jobs who have a slight cough due to allergies.
— Dan 🇺🇸 (@danieltobin) March 13, 2020
The problem was that this was more or less par for the course at CNN when it came to pulling apart President Trump’s words. The most glaring example was (sigh) White House correspondent Jim Acosta, who — immediately after President Trump’s Oval Office address on Wednesday — took issue with the president’s use of the phrase “foreign virus” to describe a virus that originated in a foreign country.
Jim @Acosta says it is “going to come across to a lot of Americans as smacking of xenophobia” with regards to Trump pointing out the coronavirus started out in Wuhan, China. pic.twitter.com/CFs1GVm3dt
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) March 12, 2020
“The president referred to the coronavirus as a ‘foreign virus,’ that I think was interesting because, I was talking to sources earlier this evening, one of the points that the president wanted to make tonight, wanted to get across to Americans, is that this virus did not start here, but that they’re dealing it,” Acosta said.
“Now, why the president would go as far to describe it as a foreign virus, that is something we’ll also be asking questions about.” Those questions, of course, had to do with the fact that the speech was “going to come across to a lot of Americans as smacking of xenophobia.”
Here’s Acosta, meanwhile, on Twitter in January calling COVID-19 the “Wuhan Coronavirus”:
CNN International: Authorities in Beijing have cancelled all large-scale Chinese New Year celebrations in an effort to contain the growing spread of Wuhan Coronavirus.
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) January 23, 2020
At least Acosta still seems to be in control of his faculties. Here’s Don Lemon on the air Wednesday with former Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Kasich, you may remember, was a primary opponent of Trump in 2016 and hasn’t really joined the president’s fan club in the interim. He even joined calls for Trump’s impeachment in October.
Still, Kasich thought the speech was “fine.” Lemon thought, well, otherwise:
— Nicholas Fondacaro (@NickFondacaro) March 12, 2020
I want a megamix of all of this craziness with James Earl Jones intoning “This … is CNN” in between every morsel of absurdity.
At least Lemon and Acosta’s quibbles with Trump’s words are just that: quibbles. Even if taken seriously, this kind of nitpicking and caviling just makes people who are reflexively angry at anything President Trump says or does a bit angrier. Sciutto’s line of thought, if taken seriously, could have dire consequences.
The priority for COVID tests should be those who are ill and/or in high-risk groups, such as those with compromised immune systems or the elderly. If you’re young, healthy and have a sore throat, you shouldn’t be taking a COVID test. In a time of scarcity, that’s taking up resources that are desperately needed by others who are in greater danger.
By undermining the president’s vital warning about wasting test kits and by implying that the medical community might want healthy people to be tested, Siutto’s comment could literally cost lives by keeping the sick from being tested and then treated and isolated
Sciutto’s words weren’t just horribly irresponsible, CNN’s record makes it all too likely that they were borne out of a political animus toward the president.
CNN is so eager to lay into the president’s response that to Jeff Zucker’s network, literally anything is fair game, including questioning — and by implication belittling — obviously responsible medical advice. Good work.
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