Pressed on whether he was joking when he said at a campaign rally this weekend that he asked officials to slow down coronavirus testing, President Trump told reporters on Tuesday: "I don't kid."

Why it matters: White House officials have insisted that the comments were "tongue-in-cheek." Anthony Fauci told the Wall Street Journal this week that while increased testing does lead to more cases reported, the higher percentages of positive tests results in many states "cannot be explained by increased testing."

  • Trump continued to describe coronavirus testing as "a double-edged" sword, claiming it accounts for the country's 2.3 million reported cases — the largest case load the world.
  • Last week, Trump called testing "overrated" and said it "makes us look bad."

What he's saying: "I don't kid. Let me just tell you. Let me make it clear," the president said. "We have got the greatest testing program anywhere in the world. We test better than anybody in the world. Our tests are the best in the world and we have the most of them."

"By having more tests, we find more cases. We did 25 plus. 25 million tests. Think of that, 25 million. Way more, by double, triple, quadruple, any other county. Therefore, we test, we're going to have more cases. By having more cases, it sounds bad. But, actually, what it is is we're finding people."
— President Trump

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told CBS News' Weijia Jiang on Air Force One that Trump was being sarcastic when he suggested slowing down testing during the rally.

  • "[W]hat he was making was a serious point, which is why he said, 'I don't kid.' He was noting — he was making a serious point but he was using sarcasm to do that at the rally."
  • "The serious point he was making was when you test more people, you identify more cases. But the cases shouldn't be indicative of the progress we have made."

The big picture: The U.S is reporting an average of around 24,000 new cases per day. This is at least in part attributable to increased testing, but there are surges in infections in several states that outpace the growth in testing.

  • The U.S., which has a total population of around 328 million, has conducted around 27 million coronavirus tests since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • At least 120,402 people have died from the coronavirus in the U.S., the highest death toll in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Go deeper: Infectious-disease expert says coronavirus spread unlikely to slow in summer or fall

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