NEW YORK (Reuters) – Four top U.S. public health officials and members of Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force said on Tuesday that he has not asked them to slow down testing for the virus after the president suggested at a rally that it was a “double-edged sword.”
Testifying before the House Energy & Commerce Committee, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, and the Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Brett Giroir all said that the president had not asked them to slow down the testing.
Trump has repeatedly said that better U.S. testing has led to a higher number of identified coronavirus cases across the country, and at a political rally on Saturday he said he had asked for a slowdown in testing. The White House made clear on Monday that no such request was made.
Fauci also said on Tuesday the U.S. was currently seeing a disturbing surge of infections in a number of states like Texas, Florida and Arizona. He said one reason infections were rising in those states was an increase in community spread.
“Right now the next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges we are seeing in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and other states,” he said.
U.S. health officials last week warned that states seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases may need to reimpose strict restrictions similar to what was implemented in March.
Giroir said the country would be able to produce 180 million N95 respirators per month by fall.
N95 masks are essential for protecting healthcare professionals from the coronavirus and are in short supply in many places, leading the Trump administration to invoke the Defense Production Act to boost supply.
(Reporting by Michael Erman and Saumya Sibi Joseph; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Aurora Ellis)