Does not getting tested for Covid 19 make the disease disappear? Are the elderly the only people dying? Are Democratic governors intentionally infecting them? No, no and no. Those are not true: You will have the disease regardless of whether you get tested. You just won't have an official diagnosis that you have it. All age groups are dying from the disease, although the elderly are among the hardest hit. Democratic governors are not intentionally infecting anyone, elderly or otherwise.
The claim appeared in a post (archived here) on Facebook on September 26, 2020. It opened:
Stop getting tested, people!! I mean, seriously, how dumb! Let me just ask you, WHY do you feel the need to get tested for Covid-19?! What exactly will that actually do for you?
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Sep 29 16:57:47 2020 UTC)
This posting contains several misunderstandings and outright falsehoods. Let's examine them one by one.
1) The assertion that the number of cases would decrease if the United States tested fewer people defies logic. Cases of Covid 19 exist regardless of whether they are detected by tests. If police departments stopped tracking the number of homicides, does that mean that people would not be getting killed nonetheless?
President Trump started making this claim on June 15, when he Tweeted that "(w)ithout testing, or weak testing, we would be showing almost no cases."
On June 20, he told a crowd in Tulsa, OK, that he wanted fewer tests: "So I told my people, slow the testing down, please."
Trump made that point repeatedly over the summer, including in an interview on Fox News on July 19, 2020.
But health officials dispute the president's assertion.
0n June 17, 2020, KaiseHealth News asserted:
Testing doesn't create the virus. Even without diagnostics, COVID-19 would still pose a problem. We just would know less about it.
In that same posting, KHN quoted Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice and community engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, as saying:
"The implication that not testing makes the problem go away is completely false. It could not be more false."
In a September 4, 2020 article titled "Why Covid-19 testing is the key to getting normal," the National Institutes of Health asserts that testing saves lives.
Testing of all people for SARS-CoV-2, including those who have no symptoms, who show symptoms of infection such as trouble breathing, fever, sore throat or loss of the sense of smell and taste, and who may have been exposed to the virus will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by identifying people who are in need of care in a timely fashion. A positive test early in the course of the illness enables individuals to isolate themselves - reducing the chances that they will infect others and allowing them to seek treatment earlier, likely reducing disease severity and the risk of long-term disability, or death.
Testing of people who have been in contact with others who have a documented infection is also important. A negative test doesn't mean you're in the clear; you could become infectious later. Therefore, even if you test negative, you need to continue to protect yourself and others by washing your hands frequently, physically distancing, and wearing a face mask. A positive test makes it clear that you have to isolate yourself, and that others with whom you have been in contact since the time of your exposure should also get tested.
Since it is recognized that nearly half of all SARS-CoV-2 infections are transmitted by people who are not showing any symptoms, identifying infected individuals while they are presymptomatic, as well as those who are asymptomatic, will play a major role in stopping the pandemic.
2. Saying that "the only thing that matters is deaths" is a value judgment not shared by the medical community.
"Death is not the only outcome that matters." said Dr. Eduardo Franco, the director of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and the chairman of the Department of Oncology at McGill University in Canada. "There is considerable suffering and risk of long-term sequelae if one is hospitalized because of COVID-19. Being hospitalized is a reflection of the severity of the infection. Being moved to an ICU is an even more ominous indication of severity."
3. It is true that the elderly have a greater proportion of fatalities than younger patients. The CDC notes that:
As you get older, your risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases. For example, people in their 50s are at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 40s. Similarly, people in their 60s or 70s are, in general, at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 50s. The greatest risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is among those aged 85 or older.
The CDC has determined that compared with a control group of 18-29 year olds, patients 65-74 years old have a 90 times greater likelihood of dying, 75-84 year olds have 220 times more likelihood and people older than 85 have a 630 times greater likelihood.
But age is not the only determinant, the CDC says:
There are also other factors that can increase your risk for severe illness, such as having underlying medical conditions.
People of any age with the following conditions are at increased risk of severe illness, the federal agency said:
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
- Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 or higher)
- Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
Minorities of any age also have suffered a disproportionate rate of deaths from Covid 19, the CDC has found.
Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put many people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19. The term "racial and ethnic minority groups" includes people of color with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. But some experiences are common to many people within these groups, and social determinants of health have historically prevented them from having fair opportunities for economic, physical, and emotional health.
A viral swab from an external skin lesion or mucosal surface can detect:
- Herpes simplex virus (HSV) types 1 and 2 (cause of herpes simplex infections including genital herpes)
- Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) (cause of chickenpox and shingles)
In addition, a viral swab from oral skin mucosa can detect:
- Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) (the cause of infectious mononucleosis)
- Coxsackievirus A16 (one of the causes of hand, foot and mouth disease)