Over the course of five minutes Monday, at the tail end of an event meant to highlight a new expansion of rapid testing for the novel coronavirus, President Trump and his aides reminded the American public in stark terms that their assertions about the pandemic should be considered with a grain of salt.

Those tests, produced by Abbott Laboratories, promise to yield results in a matter of minutes without the use of a machine to process samples. Such tests could be a significant advance in the effort to contain the coronavirus, allowing for the quick identification of new infections and therefore allowing those with infections to quickly isolate from other people.

While Trump presented this as an evolution of the country’s massive testing effort, it does prompt an obvious question: Why is the United States so far behind countries such as South Korea, which had broadly available quick-turnaround testing in March?

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