President Trump late Saturday said he’s done a great job in controlling the coronavirus that’s killed nearly 120,000 people in the U.S. and that widespread testing for the disease is making him look bad.
“You’re gonna find more people, you’re gonna find more cases. I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please,’ ” Mr. Trump told the Tulsa crowd.
Testing for the virus is considered a key tool in combating the virus, since it allows states to pinpoint and isolate the infected and their contacts. The administration was faulted for its early efforts to root out the disease, after a diagnostic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed in February.
Mr. Trump said the U.S. has built a robust testing system since then, though it is sweeping up younger people who won’t get sick and die, so there isn’t much to worry about.
“Let’s open the schools, please,” he told the Bank of Oklahoma (BOK) Center.
Yet the president’s opponent seized on the testing comment, saying it showed a lack of commitment to defeating the pandemic.
“Is the President admitting that he refused medical care to millions of Americans?” tweeted Ronald Klain, who served as chief of staff to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden from 2008 to 2011.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Illinois Democrat, said Congress will look into Mr. Trump’s comments “because the American people deserve to know if their president sabotaged efforts to detect and contain COVID-19 because he didn’t like the results. The result he needs to focus on is the lives we can save.”
Mr. Trump spoke to a Tulsa crowd that showed little concern for the coronavirus, with few in the arena wearing face coverings despite widespread fears that an indoor gathering amid a pandemic could spread the pathogen.
The Trump campaign made it clear that it felt OK moving forward with its first rally since early March after protesters against racial injustice flooded the streets nationwide.
“You don’t hear them talking about COVID,” Mr. Trump said. “That name gets further and further away from China, as opposed to calling it the Chinese virus.”
Later, he called the virus the “kung flu.”
A CBS reporter, Weijia Jiang, in March said a White House aide referred to the virus in those terms to her face in March, prompting White House counselor Kellyanne Conway to demand the source, dubbing the term “highly offensive.”
The coronavirus was discovered in Wuhan, China, in December. It swept across the globe and has infected 2.2 million people in the U.S.
States across the Sun Belt, including Florida, Texas and Arizona, have reported a spike in cases as they reopen their economies, though leaders say many cases are in young people who won’t flood the hospitals.
The Trump campaign said it handed out face masks at his Oklahoma rally Saturday night, though wearing them would be optional.
One man standing behind the podium and visible on television did have a mask on, though it was pulled down under his mouth and chin, making it useless.
As the camera panned to the Oklahoma delegation, Sen. James Lankford was wearing a mask, though Sen. James Inhofe was not.
Josie Saltarelli, 38, a paramedic from Tulsa, said she wasn’t worried about the coronavirus.
“People die of other things all the time,” she told reporters traveling with the president.
Her friend, Sadie McPherson — a nurse assistant — added: “And many get better, too.”
Health experts say masks are a critical and simple tool for preventing the spread of the virus, since droplets expelled from a person’s face through sneezing, coughing or talking cannot travel far.
Places like Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong, where mask-wearing is commonplace, have managed to control their death rates from the virus.
Amid fears that an overflow crowd would spread the virus, the rally was marked by images of a less-than-full arena.
An outdoor stage — set up for an “overflow” crowd — was never used and dismantled as Mr. Trump arrived.