At Tulsa rally, Trump says he urged team to ‘slow’ COVID-19 testing

US president says increased tests lead to more cases being discovered, but White House official says comment made in jest and country still leads world in sampling

US President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP)
US President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP)

US President Donald Trump said Saturday he was encouraging health officials in his administration to slow down testing, arguing that increased tests lead to more cases being discovered.

The president has claimed falsely on several occasions that surges of COVID-19 in several states can be explained by increased diagnostic tests.

At his first rally since the outbreak forced nationwide shutdowns in March, Trump told the crowd in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that testing was a “double-edged sword.”

The US — which has more deaths and cases than any other country — has carried out more than 25 million coronavirus tests, placing it outside the top 20 countries in the world, per capita.

“Here is the bad part: When you do testing to that extent, you are going to find more people, you will find more cases,” Trump argued.

“So I said to my people ‘slow the testing down.’ They test and they test.”

It was not clear from Trump’s tone if he was playing to the crowd, which cheered as he spoke, or if he was being serious.

However a White House official told AFP that Trump “was clearly speaking in jest to call out the media’s absurd coverage. We are leading the world in testing, and we are proud to have conducted 25 million plus tests.”

Coronavirus cases have spiked in several states, including Oklahoma, and local health officials had asked Trump to postpone the rally, fearing it would contribute to the spread.

Six members of an advance team working in Tulsa ahead of the rally tested positive for COVID-19, the Trump campaign said just hours before the president took the stage.

According a tally released by Johns Hopkins University Saturday night, the US lost another 568 people to the new coronavirus in previous 24 hours.

It marked the 10th day in which the daily toll from the virus has been fewer than 1,000, even as the US remains the country hardest-hit by the pandemic with 119,654 deaths out of 2,251,205 official cases.

Some 20 states have seen a rebound in infections as the epicenter of the country’s outbreak has moved from New York and the country’s Northeast to the South and West.

After dipping below 20,000 new daily confirmed cases recently, the figure has crept back up towards 30,000 and beyond in recent days.

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