WASHINGTON – Dr. Anthony Fauci told House lawmakers on Tuesday that despite President Donald Trump’s claim that he had asked officials to “slow the testing down,” he had never been given such a directive.
“To my knowledge, none of us have ever been told to slow down on testing. That just is a fact,” he said.Fauci said testing and contact surveillance were fundamental to “understand exactly what’s going on in community spread.”
“So, it’s the opposite. We’re going to be doing more testing, not less.”
Fauci, the top infectious-disease expert at the National Institutes of Health appeared before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He was joined by Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention; Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration; and Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health for Health and Human Services.
The hearing comes amid continued scrutiny over Trump’s handling of the virus and nationwide protests over racism and police brutality, which sent hundreds of thousands marching into streets amid the pandemic.
Trump received a new batch of criticism after holding a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last week – something that concerned some health experts – and for telling the crowd he asked for a slow down on testing.
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“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,” Trump said. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.'”
Some of Trump’s advisers said the president intended the remark in jest. But when asked earlier Tuesday if he had been joking about a reduction in testing, Trump said, “I don’t kid.”
Like Fauci, Redfield, Hahn and Giroir each said they had never heard any request from the White House to slow down testing.
In his opening remarks, Fauci said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the progress that has been made toward developing a vaccine for COVID-19, which he said will likely be the “nail in the coffin” needed to end the coronavirus pandemic.
Fauci said there were a number of promising vaccines in development and that it’s about “when and not if” they get positive results. He reiterated his hope that a vaccine could be made available by the end of 2020 or early 2021.
The coronavirus has infected 2.3 million Americans and killed more than 120,000.
States are ramping up reopening efforts and a growing number see spikes in the number of cases – such as Florida, which recently reported a record number of daily cases.
Fauci was last on Capitol Hill in May, when he testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and warned senators that reopening efforts by states needed to be done cautiously because it presents a “real risk that you will trigger an outbreak.”
At the time, the White House made Fauci available to testify before the Republican-controlled Senate but did not for the Democratic-controlled House. After Fauci was barred from appearing before House lawmakers, Trump called the House a “bunch of Trump haters.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: Anthony Fauci says Trump never asked team to slow testing