U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday he and other members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force have not been instructed to slow down testing for the virus as President Donald Trump says he has done.
“As a member of the task force, and my colleagues on the task force, to my knowledge, I know for sure, that to my knowledge, none of us have ever been told to slow down on testing. That is just a fact. In fact, we will be doing more testing,” Fauci said at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Fauci’s comments came just hours after U.S. President Donald Trump maintained he was serious about remarks he made at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday, when he said he asked his administration to slow down testing because more testing would reveal more cases.
White House officials have since tried walk back his comments, maintaining they were not meant to be taken seriously.
But when asked Tuesday if comments at the rally were made in jest as he spoke with reporters in Washington, Trump said, “I don’t kid. Let me just tell you. Let me make it clear.”
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield, when asked if more people should be tested in the U.S., responded, “All of us have been and continue to be committed to increasing readily timely access to testing. We’ve made a marked improvement and we still have a ways to go.”
The U.S. leads the world in coronavirus infections, with over 2.3 million of the more than 9.1 million cases worldwide, according to statistics compiled by the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. The U.S. is also the world leader in confirmed COVID-19 deaths, with more than 120,670.
The congressional hearing took place as parts of the U.S. grapple with a surge in new confirmed coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
Food and Drug Administration chief Dr. Stephen Hahn and Admiral Brett Giroir, head of the U.S. Public Health Service, also testified.
Fauci is among the health experts saying people should not be focused on a second wave of the virus in the U.S. because the country has not yet emerged from its first wave.
It’s a serious situation, Fauci told lawmakers. “Right now, the next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges that we are seeing in Florida, Texas, Arizona and in other states.”
Many states are in the process of loosening restrictions put in place to stop the spread of the virus, despite infection spikes in about half of the 50 U.S. states.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Monday that reimposing restrictions would be a last resort, while saying the virus was spreading at an “unacceptable rate” and declining to impose an order to mandate the use of masks in public. Texas has set daily records for new infections for nearly two weeks as its hospitalization rates climbed.
Neighboring Louisiana surpassed 3,000 deaths due to COVID-19, and with a rise in cases there as well Governor John Bel Edwards said he would keep in place the current limitations that were set to expire Friday.
Hospitalization rates have also surged in Georgia, while the number of confirmed cases is rising in more than a dozen states.