Elon Musk famously predicted in March, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, that there would be “probably close to zero new cases” in the United States by the end of April.
Now, the Tesla CEO is trying to figure out whether he has a virus that has since killed at least 242,000 Americans. The billionaire said early Friday that he’s experiencing cold-like symptoms, but that four rapid tests have produced two positives and two negatives — an experience that left him questioning the process.
“Something extremely bogus is going on,” Musk, 49, tweeted. “Was tested for covid four times today. Two tests came back negative, two came back positive. Same machine, same test, same nurse.”
When one follower asked if false tests could be driving the national surge in cases, Musk replied, “If it’s happening to me, it’s happening to others.”
When another follower suggested that “revenues from tests are likely not bogus & very consistent,” Musk replied, “Exactly.”
Musk said he took antigen tests made by Becton, Dickinson and Company, one of many rapid tests on the market now. Medical experts have long warned that such rapid-fire tests are not as reliable as polymerase chain reaction, or PCR tests, which must be processed in a laboratory. A White House strategy relying on the accuracy of rapid antigen tests has led to multiple outbreaks in the executive branch.
Musk’s tweets on Friday are hardly the first time he’s questioned the science behind coronavirus, or the response to it.
In the early days of the pandemic, as the U.S. was beginning to lock down to try to contain the viral spread, Musk emerged as a vocal skeptic of the dangers of COVID-19 and the need for restrictive countermeasures. In early March, he tweeted that “the coronavirus panic is dumb.”
His fury only increased the next month after Tesla was forced to shutter a California factory gearing up to produce its new Model Y. On an April 29 earnings call, he unleashed a heated rant about the government orders.
“To say that they cannot leave their house and they will be arrested if they do, this is fascist,” he said. “This is not democratic — this is not freedom.”
On Joe Rogan’s podcast the next month, he said that the lockdowns were “fundamentally, a violation of the Constitution.” Musk also helped mobilize a cadre of like-minded tech entrepreneurs who pushed the government to reopen businesses.
In recent months, the pandemic has again spiraled out of control. The U.S. set another new daily record on Thursday with more than 153,000 new cases, and there are about 66,000 people hospitalized for COVID-19. Eighteen states reported new daily records for hospitalizations on Thursday.
California, where Tesla is based, has also seen a surge in cases this month, and on Thursday became the second state — after Texas — to surpass 1 million cases.
Musk, who said on Twitter that he has the “symptoms of a typical cold,” said that he’s now awaiting a PCR test, which should take 24 hours.