Elon Musk's wild testing ride

Coronavirus Daily
Bloomberg

Elon Musk's wild testing ride 
 

The tweet came at nearly 1 a.m. Eastern time, from Tesla chief Elon Musk. The billionaire automaker and rocket builder had taken four rapid coronavirus tests made by diagnostics company Becton, Dickinson & Co., half of which returned a positive result and half a negative one. "Something extremely bogus is going on," he tweeted.

Musk, who reports cold-like symptoms, may well have Covid-19. But it's still too early to say and much remains unclear about how and why he was tested. Experts say there are a couple of potential explanations for the discordant results, including that he could be at the start or end of an infection, or that he got a false positive result.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk 

Photographer: ODD ANDERSEN/AFP

The latter would make the 49-year-old Musk, who has a history of Covid denial, the celebrity messenger for a concern about rapid tests. Known as antigen tests for the viral markers they detect, they have become the subject of increasingly prominent accuracy worries. Unlike gold-standard polymerase chain reaction tests, antigen tests are fast, cheap and don't call for bulky lab equipment -- but they also don't perform as well.

Conveying those scientific nuances during a pandemic when everyone wants clean, simple answers, is a hard thing to do. The conspiratorial bent of Musk's tweets, which go on to imply without evidence that false results could be driving the very real surge in U.S. Covid-19 cases, could do additional damage.--Emma Court

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