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Dr. Fauci says coronavirus task force was never asked to slow down testing

President Trump said at a political rally last weekend that he’d asked aides to slow down coronavirus testing because it was turning up too many positive cases.

WASHINGTON — American infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci says neither he nor any members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force have been asked to slow down testing.

The question arose after U.S. President Donald Trump said at a weekend political rally in Oklahoma that he’d asked his aides to slow down testing because it was turning up too many positive cases.

White House officials insisted the president had been joking. Trump said Tuesday that he wasn’t kidding when he said it. 

Other top health officials also told the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday that nobody has asked them to slow down testing.

“We will be doing more testing,” Fauci told a House committee.

The U.S. has tested more than 27 million people, with about 2.3 million – or 8.4% -- testing positive. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci has returned to Capitol Hill at a fraught moment in the nation’s pandemic response, with coronavirus cases rising in about half the states and political polarization competing for attention with public health recommendations.

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Fauci was testifying along with the heads of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Credit: AP
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, left, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, second from left, listen during a House Committee on Energy and Commerce on the Trump administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (Sarah Silbiger/Pool via AP)

Since Fauci's last appearance at a high-profile hearing more than a month ago, the U.S. has been emerging from weeks of stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns. But it's being done in an uneven way, with some states far less cautious than others. A trio of states with Republican governors who are bullish on reopening — Arizona, Florida and Texas — are among those seeing worrisome increases in cases.

Credit: AP
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci wears a face mask as he waits to testify before a House Committee on Energy and Commerce on the Trump administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP)

Last week, Vice President Mike Pence published an opinion article in The Wall Street Journal saying the administration's efforts have strengthened the nation's ability to counter the virus and should be “a cause for celebration.”

Then Trump said at his weekend rally in Tulsa that he had asked administration officials to slow down testing, because too many positive cases are turning up. Many rally goers did not wear masks, and for some that was an act of defiance against what they see as government intrusion. White House officials later tried to walk back Trump's comment on testing, suggesting it wasn't meant to be taken literally.