(CNN) — Former Vice President Joe Biden slammed President Donald Trump for saying he told officials in his administration to “slow the testing down” for coronavirus.
“Speed up the testing,” Biden tweeted after Trump made the shocking admission during a reelection campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. An administration official later told CNN that the President was “obviously kidding.”
However, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, called Trump’s comments “an outrageous moment that will be remembered long after tonight’s debacle of a rally.”
“President Trump just admitted that he’s putting politics ahead of the safety and economic well-being of the American people — even as we just recorded the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in almost two months and 20 million workers remain out of work,” she said in a statement.
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Trump told rallygoers Saturday that an increase in testing leads to an increase in confirmed coronavirus cases.
“When you do testing to that extent, you are gonna find more people, you’re gonna find more cases,” Trump said. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down please.’ They test and they test. We have tests that people don’t know what’s going on.”
After Trump made the comment, an administration official came to the President’s defense.
“He was obviously kidding. We are leading the world in testing and have conducted 25 million + in testing,” the official told CNN.
Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said Sunday that Trump’s comments were very consistent with the White House’s policy in managing the virus, despite the administration’s claim that the comments were a joke.
“This is incredibly frustrating for the millions of Americans who have gotten sick and have not been able to get tests,” Jha said on CNN’s “Inside Politics.”
“It’s got to be incredibly frustrating for people who’ve lost families in nursing homes, because we haven’t been able to test nursing home residents and workers, or meatpacking plant workers,” Jha added. “This is unfortunately not a joke.”
Jha went on to say that the US death toll of more than 100,000 is largely due to the lack of Covid-19 testing infrastructure.
Trump’s remarks come as many states, including Oklahoma, are experiencing an increase in coronavirus cases — with the uptick in cases outpacing the increase in coronavirus tests, according to CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
As of Thursday, at least 21 states are seeing an increase in new cases from one week to the next, according to a CNN analysis of data from John Hopkins University. And as of Saturday afternoon, Tulsa County reported the most cases — 2,206 total — of any county in the state, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The state recently reported its largest single day increase in coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.
More than 119,700 people have died in the United States from the coronavirus and medical experts have long said that testing is critical to identifying cases, tracing them and stopping the spread of the virus.
The Trump campaign has dismissed concerns about the ongoing pandemic, moving forward with the scheduled rally as public health officials have warned about the potential risks.
The President’s comments on testing also came hours after the Trump campaign said that six staffers working on the rally had tested positive for coronavirus. Just hours before the President was expected to arrive in Oklahoma, Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement that “per safety protocols, campaign staff are tested for COVID-19 before events. Six members of the advance team tested positive out of hundreds of tests performed, and quarantine procedures were immediately implemented.”
Last week, Trump called testing “overrated” and said it makes the country look bad in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
This story has been updated with comments from Dr. Ashish Jha.
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