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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

Go deeper

Sep 30, 2020 - Health

COVID-19 cases on the rise among U.S. children

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

An increasing number of COVID-19 cases among school-aged children across the U.S. throughout September may be linked to school reopenings and other community activities resuming.

Driving the news: The American Academy of Pediatrics reported this week that children of all ages make up 10% of U.S cases, up from 2% in April, per AP. As of Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counted more than 435,000 cases among children ages 0–17, and 93 deaths.

Oct 1, 2020 - Health

Moderna says its coronavirus vaccine won't be ready until 2021

A laboratory technician preparing a blood sample for a vaccine clinical trial sponsored by Moderna. Photo: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said Wednesday that his company's coronavirus vaccine won't be available for widespread distribution until at least spring 2021, according to Financial Times.

Why it matters: Bancel told FT that the drugmaker will not seek emergency authorization for FDA approval for its vaccine for front-line medical workers and at-risk individuals until Nov. 25 at the earliest.

CDC: 3,689 COVID-19 or coronavirus-like cases found on cruise ships in U.S.

Cruise Ships docked in April at the port at Marina Long Beach due to a no-sail order in Long Beach, in California. Photo: Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images

There have been at least 3,689 COVID-19 or coronavirus-like illness cases on cruise ships in U.S. waters, "in addition to at least 41 reported deaths," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said late Wednesday.

Driving the news: The CDC released the data from the period of March 1 through Sept. 29 in an emailed statement confirming the extension of a no-sail order for cruise ships through Oct. 31, as first reported by Axios' Jonathan Swan on Tuesday in his article revealing CDC director Robert Redfield was overruled in a push to extend the order into 2021.