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Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has called stay-at home orders fascist and defied local officials over re-opening his Fremont electric car factory, was incorrect when he tweeted that high rates of false-positive Covid-19 tests help explain why the number of positive cases is rising while deaths and hospitalizations are falling, a UC Berkeley infectious-diseases specialist says.

Musk on Monday tweeted, “There are a ridiculous number of false positive C19 tests, in some cases ~50%.” He added, “This is a big part of why C19 positive tests are going up while hospitalizations & mortality are declining.” And, he suggested to his 34 million followers and other Twitter users, “Anyone who tests positive should retest.”

Musk, according to UC Berkeley infectious-diseases specialist John Swartzberg, is wrong about the false positives. “At best he’s confused, at worst he’s prevaricating,” Swartzberg said Tuesday.

Tesla and Musk did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Musk has repeatedly used Twitter to criticize responses to the pandemic. “The coronavirus panic is dumb,” he tweeted March 6. In April, on an earnings call, he called stay-at-home orders “fascist.” In May, he said he was restarting production at the Fremont plant in defiance of Alameda County’s public health order. He called the county’s former interim health officer — Dr. Erica Pan, now hired as California’s state epidemiologist — “ignorant.”

Musk’s tweet Monday came in response to a news story posted by GeekWire about soaring coronavirus cases in Washington State that referred to cases identified through testing. The case-number data issued by officials in that state and in jurisdictions across the U.S. comes from RNA testing that looks for genetic material from the virus, Swartzberg said.

“There are almost no false-positive tests with the RNA test,” Swartzberg said.

The RNA tests, however, can produce false negatives, so anyone testing negative who has symptoms consistent with coronavirus infection should get retested, Swartzberg said.

Musk did not make clear in his tweet where he believed coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations were falling. In California, the seven-day average up to Sunday of confirmed cases jumped 43% over the week before. Daily coronavirus deaths statewide numbered 35 on June 1 and spiked to 101 last Wednesday before falling to 44 Monday. Hospitalizations across California of positive coronavirus patients rose from 3,038 at the start of this month to 5,077 on Monday.

In Washington State, data are incomplete for the latter part of June, but show hospitalizations at 24 on June 1 and again on June 21, with some ups-and-downs in between. Data on deaths for the first three weeks of this month showed an increase from 1,136 on June 1 to 1,277 on June 21. The June 28 GeekWire story Musk was commenting on referred to Washington State data showing 3,180 new cases over the preceding week, which the news outlet said rivaled case numbers from the height of the pandemic.

Across the U.S., confirmed new case totals rose last week to levels not seen since early in the pandemic, while total hospitalizations have fallen steadily since mid-April — although several states reopening businesses have recently reported spikes — and deaths have declined from highs in April and May.


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Anthony Fauci, expert on Covid-19, sinks the US government

Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert, reiterated that the United States, despite President Donald Trump’s denial, was seeing the Covid-19 pandemic worsen due to the lack of a coherent strategy against the virus.

Parts of the country, like New York, “have taken control,” Anthony Fauci told FiveThirtyEight on Thursday.

“But as a country, when we compare ourselves to other countries, I don’t think you can say that we are doing well. It just isn’t the case,” he warned. .

The immunologist has been sounding the alarm for days in interviews when the number of new cases in the South and West of the United States explodes. The country again broke a record Thursday with 65,000 cases detected in 24 hours – about twice as much as the peaks of spring, when the epicenter was in New York.

On Wednesday, doctor Fauci had estimated that certain states had gone “too fast” in the deconfinement, and that a new containment could prove necessary, in a podcast of the Wall Street Journal.

And Thursday, in an online conference, he regretted that some southern states did not follow the instructions to gradually reopen and “jumped the steps”.

Last week, he warned, after reassuring remarks from Vice President Mike Pence, that the United States was heading straight for the 100,000 new cases per day (that day, the daily balance was around 40,000 case).

His warnings are increasingly tainted with politicization of the epidemic. “We have to hypothesize that without the divisions that are ours, we would have a more coordinated approach,” he told FiveThirtyEight.

It is an understatement: the confinement – just like the deconfinement – was done in dispersed order, State by State, with those governed by Republicans in general more quick to lift the restrictions. At the federal level, the White House had published guidelines for a gradual reopening of the economy, with criteria for reducing the number of cases and increasing screening capacity.

But very few states met these criteria, Donald Trump himself urged to accelerate deconfinement, and Dr. Fauci today clearly attributes the current outbreak to a precipitous deconfinement and the carelessness with which South Americans have resumed their activities without respecting barrier gestures.

Donald Trump downplays the daily records: “For the hundredth time, the reason we have so many cases, compared to other countries that do not do better than us by far, is that we test a lot more and better, “he tweeted. This is false, because the rate of increase in contagions is much higher than the rate of increase in tests, according to official data.

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