Anthony Fauci Breaks With Donald Trump, Says He Was Never Asked To Slow Coronavirus Testing

U.S. President Donald Trump, joined by members of the Coronavirus Task Force, speaks as National Institute Of Allergy And Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci looks on during a press conference about the coronavirus outbreak in the press briefing room at the White House on March 17, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci told House members at a hearing on Tuesday that neither he nor other health officials were asked to slow down testing for the novel coronavirus. The government’s top infectious disease expert’s statement comes just hours after President Donald Trump suggested that he had requested fewer tests to reduce the number of new cases in the U.S.

As Axios reported, Trump has frequently criticized testing, saying that it makes the U.S. look bad when more tests are completed because more cases of COVID-19 are found. At Saturday’s rally, he informed the assembled crowd in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that he had asked his team to conduct fewer tests.

In the following days, the White House pushed back on concerns over Trump’s statement, saying that his comments were meant as a joke, were tongue-in-cheek, or were made as a way to point out the hypocrisy in the media.

But Trump said on Tuesday that he “[doesn’t] kid,” when he was asked if he was joking. He also tweeted on Tuesday morning, seemingly reiterating his comments.

“With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!”

Meanwhile, Fauci denied that he had ever been told to slow down testing. He said that he wasn’t aware of anyone else being instructed to do so. Instead, he said that the opposite is true as more tests are conducted.

“I and my colleagues, to my knowledge, I know that 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 as you have heard from the admiral,” he said. “We will specifically identify people to isolate and contact trace, but more surveillance if you want to get your arms around and understand exactly what is going on in community spread. We are going to be doing more testing, not less.”

Fauci also said earlier this week that the increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 in many states is not due to ramped-up testing, despite the president’s claims.

So far in the U.S., there have been 2.3 million confirmed cases of the disease and over 120,000 deaths. Many states, such as Arizona, Texas, and Florida, have seen a dramatic increase in cases in recent days.

Testing is expected to increase along with the number of cases, with 40 to 50 million a month to be conducted by the fall. This is in contrast to the 12 million tests that the country is currently running each month.