White House COVID-19 task force member Dr. Deborah Birx urged governors to increase testing for COVID-19 during a private call on Monday, even as President Donald Trump moves to pull the plug on federally funded local testing sites.
“Hopefully I have left you with the impression that increased testing is good,” Birx told the governors, per the Daily Beast. “We would like to even see it even more.”
The doctor stressed the importance of identifying asymptomatic COVID-19 cases, saying that doing so “will really help us protect the elderly and the additional people with comorbidities.”
Meanwhile, Trump has openly disparaged testing due to how tests reveal more cases of the virus and reflect poorly on his response to the pandemic as a result. After declaring during his campaign rally on Saturday that he had asked him administration to “slow the testing down,” Trump doubled down on Tuesday and told reporters he wasn’t joking.
“I don’t kid, let me make it clear,” he said.
Additionally, the federal government will yank federal funding for local testing sites by the end of the month, TPM exclusively reported Tuesday.
However, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Birx’s fellow member of the White House’s task force, told Congress on Tuesday that the Trump administration had not ordered him nor his colleagues to curb the tests.
“To my knowledge, none of us have ever been told to slow down on testing,” Fauci said.
Several hours after Trump stated he wasn’t kidding about telling officials to tamp down on testing, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany still insisted he was “using sarcasm” when he made the comment at the rally.
“What he was making was a serious point, and that’s why he said, ‘I don’t kid.’ He was noting he was making a serious point, but he was using sarcasm to do that at the rally,” McEnany said in her head-spinning explanation of her boss’ remarks. “And the serious point he was making is that when you test more people, you identify more cases.”