Adm. Brett Giroir, the former Health and Human Services assistant secretary who served as the COVID-19 testing czar under then-President Donald Trump, Thursday pushed back on reports that senior members of the administration had interfered with public health policy, saying that the testing guidelines had been "highly misinterpreted" by the public and the media.
"We increased testing at every stage starting from March (2020)," Giroir said during a contentious interview with CNN's Brianna Keilar on "New Day." "Testing went up dramatically. The only time testing went down is after the Biden administration was inaugurated, and it dropped by 50% because of a lack of emphasis."
Earlier this month, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released emails and documents showing that White House officials from the Trump administration interfered in the efforts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to warn Americans in early 2020 about the rapidly advancing COVID-19 pandemic, reports Politico.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House COVID-19 task force coordinator under Trump, testified that Dr. Scott Atlas, a radiologist and White House adviser, had disagreed often with the CDC and tried to change the agency's guidance about testing.
"We always increased testing by home-based testing," Giroir argued on CNN Thursday. "Testing went up no matter what. The intent was not to decrease testing.
"The intent of the guidance was to make sure that anyone who is recommended by a doctor of public health would get tested no matter what, but if you were exposed, we did not want you to take a test on day three and then go expose other people. You needed to stay in quarantine no matter what the test said."
But after the media and the public "misinterpreted" the guidance, "we all decided to revise it," said Giroir.
He also told Keilar that the guidance was issued "as a group," including with Birx.
"After two weeks of discussion, we decided that that was the appropriate guidance," he continued, adding that Dr. Anthony Fauci signed off on the recommendations and Dr. Robert Redfield, the then-CDC director, published it.
"It was highly misinterpreted by the public and the media," said Giroir. "Dr. Birx believed it was that way and it was revised in two weeks. We worked together as a group of scientific and medical professionals to make the best guidance we did and that what's was put out."
Even though Birx didn't like the language, she didn't stop the guidelines from being published, said Giroir. He then acknowledged that "in retrospect, she was right."
Giroir further argued that it is "100% incorrect" that the administration didn't want asymptomatic people to be tested for COVID-19, as "we started asymptomatic testing."
He then denied Keilar's arguments that Trump had said publicly that "he didn't want testing because it revealed positive results."
In June 2020, Trump tweeted that "Cases are going up in the U.S. because we are testing far more than any other country, and ever expanding. With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!" reported CNBC at the time.
Giroir, though, insisted Thursday that the Trump administration, including Birx, was never opposed to testing asymptomatic people.
"Yes, Dr. Atlas did not want to test asymptomatic people," said Giroir. "The Trump administration did, and that was our actions. Those are the facts. I was in the middle of it. I coordinated all the testing and all the recommendations."
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