WASHINGTON — President Trump on Tuesday addressed remarks he made during an Oklahoma rally about directing staff to slow down COVID-19 testing — telling reporters he wasn’t joking while affirming that the US has the best testing in the world.

“I don’t kid. We have got the greatest testing program anywhere in the world,” Trump told reporters at the White House on his way to Phoenix, Ariz., when asked about the Tulsa comments, which were condemned by Democrats including Joe Biden.

“We test better than anybody in the world. Our tests are the best in the world and we have the most of them,” he continued.

The president’s aides have spent the past two days insisting the remarks made at his Saturday rally in Tulsa were sarcastic and meant to highlight the fact that the US has tested more people than any other country.

His political opponents jumped on the supposed tongue-in-cheek comments, calling them “outrageous” even as the Trump campaign explained he was “obviously kidding” about directing staff to slow the rate of COVID-19 tests.

Members of the White House coronavirus task force, including Drs. Robert Redfield and Anthony Fauci, on Tuesday told Congress that they had received no such request to slow down testing.

“I as a member of the task force and my colleagues on the task force to my knowledge — I know for sure — but to my knowledge, none of us have ever been told to slow down on testing. That just is a fact,” Fauci answered when asked about any testing slowdown at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday.

“In fact, we will be doing more testing, as you’ve heard from Admiral Giroir,” he said. “So it’s the opposite, we’re going to be doing more testing, not less.”

Trump on Tuesday called testing a “double-edged sword” and again repeated his remarks that more testing would lead to greater confirmed cases of COVID-19.

“By having more tests, we find more cases,” he said, adding the US had performed more than 25 million tests.

“Therefore, we test, we’re going to have more cases. By having more cases, it sounds bad but actually what it is we’re finding people — many of those people aren’t sick or very little, they may be young people,” he added.

“Testing is a double-edged sword. In one way it tells you you have cases, in another way you find out where the cases are and you do a good job,” he said.

Trump has claimed that because the US is doing “too good” of a job screening for the virus, the outbreak appears worse than in other countries.

“We have tested now 25 million people. It is probably 20 million people more than anybody else,” Trump told the crowd at his Tulsa rally.

“Here’s the bad part. When you test to that extent, you are going to find more people, find more cases. So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’ They test and they test,” he said.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said the remark “was tongue in cheek,” while press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also insisted the comment was meant to deride the media for not understanding that more testing leads to more cases.

The US has performed the most coronavirus tests, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, but the US daily per-capita rate of testing lags behind countries such as Russia and Australia.

Trump’s remarks come amid a spike in cases across the country as states begin reopening — with Florida last week reporting its largest single-day spike in cases since the pandemic started.



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