Dr. Deborah Birx has privately contradicted President Donald Trump's claims that coronavirus testing might not be necessary.
The coordinator of the president’s coronavirus task force told governors in a call Monday they must increase testing to identify asymptomatic individuals to help fight a worsening outbreak in many parts of the country, reported The Daily Beast.
“Hopefully I have left you with the impression that increased testing is good,” Birx said, according to a recording obtained by the website. “We would like to even see it even more. Identifying cases early including your asymptomatic [ones] will really help us protect the eldery and the additional people with comorbidities.”
The president claimed Saturday at his Tulsa rally to have ordered testing slowed down to keep the numbers low, which the White House insisted was a joke, but then claimed more or less the same thing Tuesday morning on Twitter.
"Cases are going up in the U.S. because we are testing far more than any other country, and ever expanding," he tweeted. "With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!"
Birx told governors her team had found evidence of an uptick in cases for Americans between 18 and 35, and she urged them to enhance testing of workers in nursing homes and in Hispanic communities.
“We have about 110 ten counties ... that are in that alert status,” Birx said.
Some Republican governors admitted some of the spread among younger populations was related to the reopening of bars in their state, and promised to ensure businesses followed safety guidelines.
“Obviously some of our folks aren't following the rules and some of the businesses we are working on making sure these folks are following the phased approach,” said Gov. Ron Desantis (R-FL). “They aren’t necessarily sick but they are definitely transmitting it. There’s an unmistakable shift."
None of the governors agreed with the president about slowing down testing, but only one of them challenged Vice President Mike Pence to explain Trump's remarks.
“The president’s comment Saturday night as it related to his order to slow down the testing is certainly not helping,” said Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D-NV). “We are doing everything we can in Nevada to increase our testing and increase the availability of our testing.”
Pence told Sisolak that Trump's statements were not meant to be taken seriously.
Pence’s response to Sisolak was not far off from those put out by White House officials and advisors over the weekend who said Trump’s statements were not meant to be taken seriously.
“The president’s observation was a passing observation," Pence said.