Fauci: We need more testing, not less

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci defends voting by mail if 'you don't want to take the chance' in person Museum unveils new Fauci bobbleheads after previous edition sells out Marlee Matlin: 'Unfathomable' that White House doesn't have sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings MORE on Tuesday said the nation needs to do more testing for the coronavirus, adding that to his knowledge, he and other top administration officials have never been told to slow down testing, as President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Michael Cohen book accuses Trump of corruption, fraud Trump requests mail-in ballot for Florida congressional primary MORE suggested during a campaign event on Saturday.

"I know for sure that, to my knowledge, none of us have ever been told to slow down on testing," Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a House hearing when asked about Trump's comments. "That just is a fact. In fact, we will be doing more testing."

Trump sparked outrage when he said during a rally in Tulsa, Okla., that more testing makes the country look bad by identifying more coronavirus cases, adding that he had told his staff to slow down testing.

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"I don't kid," Trump said on Tuesday when asked whether he made the comments in jest. 

But Fauci said Trump's comments do not reflect the administration's actual actions.

"It's the opposite," Fauci said. "We're going to be doing more testing, not less."

Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHillicon Valley: Trump backs potential Microsoft, TikTok deal, sets September deadline | House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing | Facebook labels manipulated Pelosi video Top House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing Pelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive MORE (Ore.), the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, also sought to confirm that Trump had not actually ordered a slowdown in testing.

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn and Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services Brett Giroir, who is leading testing efforts, both said flatly that Trump had never ordered them to slow down testing.

Testing in the United States has improved after an extremely slow start that drew widespread criticism of the Trump administration, though experts say the current level of about 500,000 tests per day is still not enough. Harvard University experts say at least 900,000 tests a day are needed.

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Giroir said on Tuesday that he thinks the U.S. will be able to conduct 40 million to 50 million tests per month by the fall.

Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) criticized the Trump administration for a "sluggish" initial response on testing.

"While it's improved, we're still falling far short" of the 900,000 per day that are needed, he said.

Pallone also said there are "two versions" of reality in the Trump administration, adding that the president is undermining science with his comments on slowing testing and holding rallies that could spread the virus. 

In contrast, the New Jersey Democrat noted the health officials in the administration like those who testified before the panel and thanked them for their work.

Updated at 12:22 p.m.