WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that the federal government is trying to expand testing, not slow it down it as President Donald Trump has suggested in recent days.
In testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Fauci was asked about the president’s recent comments and whether he agrees that it makes sense to limit the number of COVID-19 tests.
“It’s the opposite, we’re going to be doing more testing, not less,” said Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, who has played a key role in the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.
Fauci said that to his knowledge, “None of us have ever been told to slow down on testing — that just is a fact. In fact, we will be doing more testing.”
Fauci’s comments come in stark contrast to Trump’s remarks Saturday, when he told a crowd of his supporters at his first campaign rally in months that he wanted to slow down testing for the coronavirus.
“Testing is a double-edged sword,” said Trump, who added that the U.S. has conducted 25 million tests. “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.'”
In his testimony, Fauci said the coronavirus threat right now is a “mixed bag” because the U.S. has been “hit badly” with more than 120,000 deaths and 2.5 million infections.
While he credited the New York metropolitan area with bringing down the number of positive cases and reopening its economy carefully, he said other parts of the country are now experiencing “a disturbing surge of infections.”
“The way you address that — and I’ve said this over and over again — is you have to have the manpower, the system, the testing to identify, isolate and contact trace in an effective way so that when you see those increases, you can understand where they’re coming from. And you can do something about them,” he said.
Fauci also predicted that a vaccine would be ready by early next year.
“I still think there is a reasonably good chance that by the very beginning of 2021, that if we’re going to have a vaccine, that we will have it by then,” he said.
The other witnesses testifying at the hearing include Adm. Brett Giroir, the administration’s coronavirus testing coordinator, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield.
Giroir said in his opening statement that the U.S. has conducted more than 27 million tests and is now averaging 500,000 a day. He said that “the need for testing is greatest” now that the country is reopening.
White House officials defended the president’s comments, dismissing them as a joke, but Trump has doubled down on his testing comments. On Tuesday, he tweeted, “Cases are going up in the U.S. because we are testing far more than any other country, and ever expanding. With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!”
He also tweeted that his administration has done a “great job” on the coronavirus and “saved millions of U.S. lives.” The president added that Fauci “is with us in all ways.”
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said in his opening statement Tuesday, “Testing has been a problem since the beginning, and while it’s improved, we are still falling far short of the 900,000 daily tests public health experts believe we need. We are also hampered by the administration’s refusal to develop and implement a national testing and contact tracing strategy.”