Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma: Getty Images
Donald Trump was accused of having “blood on his hands” after claiming that he ordered a slow down in testing for coronavirus infections.
Mr Trump made the comments at his first campaign rally in months, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which he held despite health experts warning of the risks involved with thousands of people enclosed in a venue during Covid-19.
“Testing is a double-edged sword. We’ve tested now 25 million people. It’s probably 20 million people more than anybody else. Germany’s done a lot, South Korea’s done a lot,” he said at the event on Saturday night.
“Here’s the bad part: when you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases. So I said to my people, slow the testing down please.”
Medical professionals and Democrats were quick to criticise Mr Trump, and Democratic coalitions have already released ads on Sunday using what the president said against him.
The White House later walked back the statement made by the president by saying he was joking about asking to slow down testing. Economic advisor Peter Navarro even called the moment “tongue and cheek” when appearing on CNN Sunday morning.
But the damage was done.
“Our President didn’t do the right thing in January. He didn’t try in February. He seemed clueless in March. In April, thousands & thousands were dying weekly. In May he admitted he didn’t like testing. Last night, he made it even more clear. Blood is on his hands,” wrote Howard Forman, an emergency trauma radiologist and professor of public health at Yale University.
Joe Biden’s Deputy Campaign Manager and Communications Director, Kate Bedingfield, released a statement quickly after Mr Trump’s comments.
“In an outrageous moment that will be remembered long after tonight’s debacle of a rally, President Trump just admitted that he’s putting politics ahead of the safety…of the American people,” she said.
He ordered his people to “slow the testing down” because he believed the large numbers were making him look bad. People have died because he failed to provide tests. When you’re in line for hours waiting to get a test, Im sure you’ll use the time to think about how good he looks. pic.twitter.com/pVntkzRpqI
— Kate Bedingfield (@KBeds)
June 21, 2020
Mr Biden joined the conversation by simply tweeting: “Speed up the testing.”
Other Democratic politicians added their own thoughts about the moment.
“Tonight, Trump said he deliberately slowed testing as 120,000 people died. Months into this pandemic, there is still no plan for this public health and economic crisis. To start, we need more tests, more PPE, and real economic relief. And we must vote Trump out in November,” Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote.
Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy wrote: “From the beginning, the lack of a response hasn’t been an accident. It’s been by design. His plan has been to let people die. This guy is a danger and a menace and it’s wild that now he just admits this openly and believes no one will care.”
Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey called Mr Trump’s push for a lack of testing “criminal negligence” as the coronavirus death toll rises.
The US has more than 2.2 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and 119,719 people have died from the novel virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.
It was not confirmed if the US has actually slowed down on testing at the suggestion of Mr Trump, but the rate of hospitalisations and deaths increasing in areas across the country instead of declining has caused concern among health experts.
Tonight, Trump said he deliberately slowed testing as 120,000 people died. Months into this pandemic, there is still no plan for this public health and economic crisis.
To start, we need more tests, more PPE, and real economic relief. And we must vote Trump out in November. https://t.co/d070TeR1ET
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren)
June 21, 2020
Trump admitted yesterday to slowing the government’s response to the coronavirus when he should have been urgently accelerating testing and the production of PPE.
More than 122,000 Americans have died of COVID-19.
This president must be held accountable for criminal negligence.
— Ed Markey (@EdMarkey)
June 21, 2020
“There really is no correlation, in the president describing it, between an increase in testing and an increase in cases. Of course you’re going to find more cases,” Dr Sanjay Gupta said on CNN when reacting to the statement. ”The whole reason you do more testing is to find people, isolate them, slow down transmission, and decrease the number of cases. If you’re doing testing right, that is how it should work. We have not been doing testing right.”
He went on to call the statement a “public health travesty” if the president actually called for a slow down of testing.
“That is the one tool we potentially had to potentially curb this pandemic,” he said, adding how other countries were able to control their own curves through the tool. “What do these other countries have? They have testing.”
New York state was one example in the US to show that an increase in testing can actually help lower the number of cases.
The state quickly rose as the highest number of tests given per capita, and number of coronavirus cases, during the pandemic. But while the state has since decreased the number of new cases per day, it has not slowed down on testing.
Harvard School of Public Health released a report stating the US should be testing five million people per day and 20 million per day by July in order to properly control the spread of the novel virus.
The US reaching these testing numbers, especially with the Trump administration’s lack of enthusiasm towards the public health tool, is unlikely.
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