Two days after saying at a rally that he had asked his staff to reduce testing for the coronavirus, President Donald Trump confirmed on June 22 that he doesn’t believe large-scale testing for COVID-19 benefits the United States.
In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN News), President Trump said he was only “semi tongue-in-cheek” when he said at a campaign rally in Tulsa on June 20 that he asked staff to slow down COVID-19 testing because it was a “double-edged sword.”
“We’re doing so much testing, so much more than any other country,” Trump said in the interview. “And to be honest with you, when you do more testing, you find more cases. And then they report our cases are through the roof. But other countries, many countries don’t even test with real quality outside of, you know, people that are very sick.”
Trump used kids with “the sniffles” who test for COVID-19 as an example of how he believes testing makes the pandemic in the U.S. look worse than it is because he thinks the people who are testing positive are not actually at risk of dying.
“You know, if you look at the numbers, below 18 [years old], very few people are affected,” he said. “The governor of New Jersey who is a very good guy but very liberal. That’s OK. He was telling me thousands of deaths. And they only had one under 18. Think of it. One young person who died under the age of 18, with thousands of deaths so that tells you their immune system or something is doing well.”
Trump doubled down on his sentiment about testing in a tweet, as well.
“Cases are going up in the U.S. because we are testing far more than any other country, and ever expanding,” he tweeted on June 23. “With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!”
According to CNN, the president’s remarks followed White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany telling reporters at a press briefing that Trump was speaking “in jest” and “in passing” at the Tulsa rally.
“He has not directed [coronavirus testing to be slowed], and, in fact, I would note that first we continue to test about 500,000 per day, about half a million people per day,” McEnany said. “$1.8 billion dollars is invested in NIH to find new testing capabilities. Any suggestion that testing has been curtailed is not rooted in fact.”
Since then, Trump has continued to counter the argument that he was just kidding.
As of June 22, more than 27 million people in the U.S. had been tested.
Democratic leaders and public health officials criticized Trump’s remarks about testing, according to the Washington Post. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said any effort to restrict testing would mean “more Americans will lose their lives” and that Trump is “ethically unfit and intellectually unprepared to lead,” according to a statement.
American Heart Association Chief Medical Officer for Prevention Dr. Eduardo Sanchez explained in a news post why testing for COVID-19 is “crucial” to preventing the spread of the virus.
“It’s crucial of course to help treat, isolate, or hospitalize people who are infected,” he said. “Testing also is important in the bigger public health picture on mitigation efforts, helping investigators characterize the prevalence, spread, and contagiousness of the disease.”