White House testing czar disputes Trump on key reasons behind COVID case surge

Adm. Brett Giroir, director of the U.S. coronavirus diagnostic testing, adjusts his face mask as he testifies at a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on July 31, 2020, in Washington, D.C. (Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Admiral Brett Giroir, the White House’s coronavirus testing czar, said Wednesday that coronavirus cases are surging because the virus is spreading and that the US can control the pandemic, disputing President Donald Trump that cases are surging because of increased testing.

Trump again falsely claimed in a tweet Monday that the surge of cases in the US is because “we TEST, TEST, TEST.”

Asked about Trump’s tweet during an interview with NBC’s “Today” show on Wednesday, Giroir said that cases and hospitalizations are actually increasing. He also called for the US to increase testing capacities and to do more testing.

“We do believe and the data show that the cases are going up. It’s not just a function of testing. Yes, we’re getting more cases identified, but the cases are actually going up, and we know that too because hospitalizations are going up,” Giroir said, acknowledging that deaths are increasing as well. “Now the peak was in the 70-thousands in July. We’re at about 40 to 43,000 now. So, we’re much less than July, but those are going up, those are real, and we do know that deaths are increasing, unfortunately,” he added.

The US is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases across the country, with more than 8.7 million confirmed infections and more than 226,000 deaths, according to a Wednesday morning tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Giroir also said the US can still control the coronavirus pandemic and has the tools to do so. Earlier this week, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told CNN’s Jake Tapper during “State of the Union” “we’re not going to control the pandemic.”

“We can control the virus. We know how to do that,” he said. “Smart policies, very critical to wear a mask when you can’t physically distance, avoid crowds, like those indoor crowded spaces, wash your hands … We have the tools to combat this. We can control it, but this is a very important time to do it.”

Former CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden called the federal coronavirus response “a colossal failure” Tuesday but said “people are getting it” on the importance of wearing masks.

“Only about one out of 10 people are not wearing masks. It’s a small and misguided minority, but really most people get it,” Frieden told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer “The Situation Room.” “What we lack is a coordinated federal response.”

As health experts and doctors warn the impact of coronavirus could get worse, the White House has continued to disregard advice from health experts on mask wearing, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings to curb the spread of the virus. Giroir warned Americans about hosting small gatherings indoors as winter approaches and temperatures drop.

“We’re entering the winter period. There’s more chances to spread — particularly indoors and small gatherings — but we can stop that until we get that safe and effective vaccine, which is around the corner,” he said. “It may not be this month, but it’s going to be soon.”