Image via Shutterstock / Tania Lili for COURIER
Image via Shutterstock / Tania Lili for COURIER

Nearly 120,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 and case counts are surging in several states, including Texas and Florida, both of which recorded more than 4,000 new cases on Saturday, setting new single-day records.

President Donald Trump on Saturday said that he instructed his administration to slow down testing for the novel coronavirus to avoid the detection of more cases, even though public health experts have made clear that increased testing is the best way to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Here’s the bad part: When you do testing to that extent you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases,” Trump said during a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “So I said to my people, slow the testing down, please.”

Trump’s comments come as the U.S. closes in on 120,000 confirmed deaths due to COVID-19. More than 2.2 million Americans have tested positive for the virus and case counts are surging in several states, including Texas and Florida, both of which recorded more than 4,000 new cases on Saturday, setting new single-day records. Arizona has seen troubling spikes as well with 19% of tests coming back positive this week.

Trump and Republican allies have claimed that the rising caseloads are due to expanded testing. “If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any,” Trump said at the White House on Monday. 

But public health experts disagree. They say that while the increase in testing is partially responsible for rising numbers in some states, there’s more to the picture. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told ABC News last week that it was important to look both at case numbers and the percentage of positive tests to understand whether the increasing number of cases represented worsening outbreaks. 

“If you test more, you will likely pick up more infections,” Dr. Fauci said, also adding: “Once you see that the percentage is higher, then you’ve really got to be careful, because then you really are seeing additional infections that you weren’t seeing before.”

Trump has repeatedly downplayed the importance of testing and even reportedly declined to pursue more aggressive testing for the disease in January out of fear that more positive cases would hurt his re-election effort.