“Here is the bad part: When you do testing to that extent, you are going to find more people, you will find more cases,” Trump said during his Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally on Saturday night.
“So I said to my people ‘slow the testing down.’ They test and they test,” he told the crowd. He added testing was a “double-edged sword.”
The Republican president, on numerous occasions, has falsely claimed that surges of COVID-19 in several states can be explained by increased diagnostic tests.
The US, where the virus has affected more than 2,330,500 and killed over 121,900 so far, has conducted over 25 million tests, placing it outside the top 20 countries in the world, per capita.
Trump also joked that public health officials are conducting so many tests “that people don’t even know what’s going on.”
“We got another one over here,” he said, pointing into the crowd. “The young man is 10 years old. He’s got the sniffles. He’ll recover in about 15 minutes. That’s a case!”
Despite such remarks, it was still unclear from Trump’s tone if he was playing a joke to the crowd, which cheered as he spoke, or if he was being serious.
However, a White House official told AFP that Trump “was clearly speaking in jest to call out the media’s absurd coverage. We are leading the world in testing.”
Meanwhile, the campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden and Democratic organizations are now racing to get Trump’s comment in as many ads as possible, a Biden aide and operatives from multiple Democratic super PACs told CNN.
Coronavirus cases have increased dramatically in several US states, including Oklahoma, which prompted local health officials to ask Trump to postpone the rally over fears that it would contribute to the spread.
Six members of an advance team working in Tulsa ahead of the rally tested positive for the virus, the Trump campaign said just hours before the president took the stage.