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Without evidence, Musk blames ‘false positives’ for surge in coronavirus cases

Telsa CEO Elon Musk waded into the coronavirus debate again Wednesday, tweeting that “false positives” in testing could be behind the rising number of U.S. cases. He also implied, without evidence, that those who died of other causes were being lumped in with coronavirus deaths.

“There are a lot of [coronavirus] false positives messing up the numbers,” Musk claimed. “Even tests with 5% false positive rate (in *field*, not lab) would show up as ~17 million fake [coronavirus] cases even if there were actually none.”

Musk didn’t provide sources for this claim. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned last month that a popular fast-response COVID-19 test may have high instances of false-negative results, meaning the test was undercounting — not overcounting — the number of cases.

Musk later implied without evidence that those who did not die of coronavirus but had tested positive could be included in the death counts for the disease.

“Did the person actually have [coronavirus] or did they just have [coronavirus] symptoms?” he wrote.

Cases of the disease have skyrocketed over the past week in southern and western states as some began lifting restrictions on gatherings and businesses. According to Johns Hopkins University, the five-day rolling average of new coronavirus cases has reached new records in the last several days, with a high of 42,624 new reported cases on June 28 .

Tesla’s CEO has advanced conspiracy theories about the disease since it was first detected earlier this year.

In March, Musk tweeted that “the coronavirus panic is dumb,” and has railed against shelter-in-place guidelines as unconstitutional limits on individuals’ freedoms, even calling them “fascist” in a vulgar Tesla earnings call.

Musk reopened Tesla’s California factory in defiance of local restrictions barring the plant from operating. Musk dared officials at the time to arrest him, and sued the county to force it to allow the plant to resume operations.

The county ultimately backed down and the Tesla plant was reopened. Though Tesla initially said it would allow employees to take unpaid leave if they were concerned about catching the virus, the Washington Post reported Wednesday that three employees were fired after staying home.

Tesla did not immediately return a request for comment on the reported firings.

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