On Saturday, the White House held a press conference on the coronavirus pandemic response, including updates on the number of tests conducted so far. A graph displayed at the briefing showed a gradual rise in testing, including a sharp rise on Friday. However, some viewers argued that these numbers could be misleading.
Vice President Mike Pence was pleased to announce on Saturday that more than 195,000 people in the U.S. have now been tested for COVID-19, the coronavirus strain that is now a global pandemic. He revealed a graph showing the number of tests completed on various dates from Feb. 23 through Friday, generally rising over time. The biggest jump was this week, when the bar rose from under 30,000 tests to around 50,000 tests on Friday. Pence also noted that "only 19,343 — at this moment — have tested positive for the coronavirus."
Some people online felt that the phrasing of this announcement was suspicious. They noted that it did not specify whether all 195,000+ tests conducted have returned results yet. They argued that the vice president should have given the number of negative results, not the number of positives.
Others added that it was not reassuring to hear that about 10 percent of the tests conducted had come back positive. They felt that the vice president's tone could easily be taken as callous.
According to a report by ABC News, the number of coronavirus diagnoses in the U.S. now stands at 19,624. So far, at least 260 people have died of the virus, and 147 people have been confirmed to have recovered.
Worldwide, there have been over 275,000 confirmed diagnoses of COVID-19, and 11,399 deaths. Over 88,000 people have been confirmed to have recovered globally.
This statement by @Mike_Pence is intentionally deceptive. How many of the 195,000 tests have RETURNED a negative result? It takes days to get a test result back in many instances. Mike Pence is intentionally misleading American citizens about #coronavirus https://t.co/pJSxaZCF9u— ᴛʀᴜᴛʜ ᴡʀɪᴛᴇʀ (@SheWhoRises) March 21, 2020
Pence was also criticized for his handling of news that a member of his staff had been infected during the press conference. He acknowledged that a male staffer had tested positive for coronavirus, but claimed that he had not been exposed to the virus.
"Neither the president nor I had direct contact with that staff person," he went on. "We worked immediately with a White House physician and the CDC, we did all contact tracing, and while the White House doctor has indicated that he has no reason to believe that I was exposed, and no need to be tested, given the unique position that I have as vice president and as leader of the coronavirus task force, both I and my wife will be tested for the coronavirus later this afternoon."0comments
Viewers were outraged by this news, questioning why Pence was not quarantined while he awaited testing. They pointed out that he was sharing the stage, the lectern and the microphone with Trump and other officials. Even if he was that confident he was not infected, they argued, he was only using up the precious resource of available tests.
Visit the CDC's website for the latest information on the coronavirus pandemic.