President Donald Trump has doubled down on his claim that he ordered his administration to "slow the testing down" for new coronavirus cases. He revealed this startling fact on Saturday, during his campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and White House spokespeople have since tried to claim that he was "kidding." On Tuesday, Trump told ABC News: "I don't kid."
"By having more tests, we find more cases," Trump explained to reporters on the White House lawn. He went on to claim that the U.S. has done "way more" testing for COVID-19 than "other countries — big countries," which has made the U.S. look bad by comparison. "The reason we have more cases than other countries is because our testing is so much," he said. This statement oversimplifies testing statistics, and public health officials say that this does not account for the rise in new COVID-19 cases, and that "slowing down" the testing is not the solution.
NEW: Asked whether he was kidding when he claimed at his Tulsa rally he had instructed officials to slow down COVID-19 testing, Pres. Trump says, "I don't kid."June 23, 2020
Last month, FactCheck.org explained Trump's claim that the U.S. has done more testing than any other country in the world. While that is true in raw numbers, the U.S. has a higher population than most other countries, and it still has not matched up to other countries in the number of tests per-capita it can offer.
Even setting this fact aside, public health officials have been in agreement from the beginning on the fundamental fact that doing as much testing as possible is essential to slowing the spread and minimizing the death toll of coronavirus. By calling for the testing to be "slowed down," the president directly defied the advice of medical professionals in pursuit of a political goal.
The Trump administration has made numerous attempts to explain Trump's "slow down the testing" statement since Saturday. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that trump "has not directed that" as an order, adding that "it was a comment that he made in jest." However, on Tuesday, the president contradicted this explanation himself, along with several others.
According to a report by CNBC, multiple public health experts have now gone on the record to say that the current surges in new coronavirus cases around the country cannot be explained by an increase in testing. They are more likely a result of states trying to re-open public spaces.
Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told the outlet that if something is not done, some communities "might be past the point that they can control this just with simple interventions like trying to get more people to wear masks and people being mindful of their social interactions." Gottlieb did not offer details on what "more severe interventions" might look like.