In typical Elon Musk fashion, he took to Twitter to question the reliability of the “fast” version of the COVID-19 after receiving two positive and two negative results out of four tests for the coronavirus. The test is meant to test for proteins that might indicate an immune system response to the COVID-19 virus and typically takes only a few minutes to produce results.
Something extremely bogus is going on. Was tested for covid four times today. Two tests came back negative, two came back positive. Same machine, same test, same nurse. Rapid antigen test from BD.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 13, 2020
However, it is known to be less reliable than other methods of testing for the virus with about 40 to 50 percent of results being false. Experts normally recommend using the more accurate but somewhat slower PCR testing instead.
This is not the first time that Musk has dismissed COVID-19 as a serious issue. He previously said that he would not get a vaccine if one became available because he did not regard himself as being in the “at-risk” group.
He has also gotten into legal scraps with county and state officials in California over the government-mandated shutdown of his factory in Alameda County. Government officials did seem more willing to work with him on a possible compromise after he threatened to move his factory out of the state, filed legal action against what he called an unelected “interim health officer”, and indicated a willingness to reopen the factory against government guidelines.
Response to his tweet calling the tests “bogus” were a mixed bag that ranged from calling Musk “grossly irresponsible” to agreeing that the tests were likely unreliable. Others said that local government officials and hospitals might be inflating the number of COVID-19 cases in an effort to get more funding or justify lockdowns that might otherwise be unnecessary. Especially frustrating the matter was the apparent exceptions that government officials in some cities made for large demonstrations over the summer.
Such an accusation might not be completely unfounded, considering that New York Governor Cuomo had previously mandated that nursing homes accept patients that were recovering from COVID-19, a move that was likely to increase the number of cases among vulnerable elderly residents. There have also been unconfirmed reports of hospitals listing COVID-19 as the cause of death rather than the actual cause, such as unrelated heart attacks.
Some commenters did feel the need to inject some humor into it, playing on the long-standing joke that Musk might be a robot or alien posing as human and developing advanced interplanetary rockets in an attempt to get back home:
COVID tests dont work well with alien DNA
— Billy Lively (@ImSoBlively) November 14, 2020
Despite CNN’s slightly alarmist assertion that Musk’s supposed COVID-19 infection might impact the Crew-1 launch scheduled for this weekend, the health of the crew is more likely to influence the launch schedule than the health of an aerospace company’s CEO. The slip of Crew-1’s launch date to November 15 rather than November 14 was due to the likelihood of high winds at the rocket stage retrieval site, not Elon Musk’s health condition. NASA has only expressed a preference that Musk should quarantine rather than attend the launch. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has indicated that the agency will attempt to do some contact tracing for Musk to see if the Crew-1 astronauts might be at risk.
Musk has shown symptoms of COVID-19, but may simply need to go with a more reliable test to know for certain. As things stand, Musk might be one of the Schrödinger’s Cats of COVID-19: Does he, or doesn’t he, have the virus? Musk says that he will get a more reliable test, which will take about 24 hours to get results. Until then, no one will know for certain.