LOS ANGELES - At his Tulsa, Oklahoma rally on June 20, President Trump ignited a firestorm of controversy when he suggested a slow down in coronavirus testing.
"When you do testing to that extent you're going to find more people, you're going to find cases,” the President told those in attendance. “So I said to my people, 'Slow the testing down, please.' They test and they test. We got tests for people who don't know what's going on.”
As the nation sees a potential second wave of the virus, many suggested the statement was a dangerous admittance that the President had called for less coronavirus testing. Others maintained the comment was made in jest.
In an exclusive interview with FOX 11’s Elex Michaelson on The Issue Is, Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, set the record straight, denying the President ever made any directive to slow testing.
“No, he did not tell me that, and he’s never told us that,” she said, at a time when the US has conducted more than 31 million tests.
“I think he’s very proud of what he’s been able to bring to bear for testing,” Birx continued, touting the work the White House has done regarding testing. “It’s the federal government who worked with the private sector to expand these platforms, makes them available, and everyday we’re sending out swabs, and transport media, and extraction media to states so they can expand testing.”
Birx further emphasized the necessity of testing, citing recent reports that suggest anywhere from 40-60% of young people could be asymptomatic, learning of their infections only through increased testing.
Given that startling statistic, Michaelson pressed Birx over why the President would even make the testing comment in the first place.
“Because everyone is complaining about the cases,” Birx posited.
The physician, who is now set to visit hotspots in Texas and Arizona with Vice President Pence, emphasized that as testing increases, the raw number of cases will rise, but that it’s important to make sure that the rate of positivity does not rise as well. Right now, she said, California should be cautious, as the test-positive rate is creeping up.
In a wide-ranging interview on The Issue Is, Dr. Birx also discussed the importance of wearing face masks as a method of curbing the spread of coronavirus, responding to Michaelson’s question surrounding the initial claims, from the likes of Dr. Anthony Fauci and Surgeon General Jerome Adams, that masks were not necessary.
“I don’t think any of us knew how many viral particles could potentially be produced and spread by speaking alone,” she said, stressing how the task force’s messaging and response has shifted as they acquire new information and as the science progresses. “We knew shouting, we knew coughing, we knew sneezing, but this was new research, and I think since that moment that research came out, is the moment we immediately changed.”
Dr. Birx also discussed the experience working with the President as part of the White House Task Force, saying everyone involved as been “extraordinarily nice and kind,” showing deep concern for the American people.
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