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White House head of testing defends coronavirus task force and CDC: 'None of us lie'

Adm. Brett Giroir was addressing one of President Trump's recent retweets, which claimed that doctors and the CDC tell "outrageous lies" about COVID-19.
/ Source: TODAY

After President Donald Trump retweeted a post claiming that doctors and public health officials are telling "outrageous lies" about COVID-19, the testing coordinator for the White House's coronavirus task force addressed this assertion.

On TODAY Tuesday, Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health who's also the director of coronavirus diagnostic testing, told Savannah Guthrie: "We may occasionally make mistakes based on the information we have, but none of us lie. We are completely transparent with the American people, and my experience on the task force is the vice president, everyone there has been completely transparent. We let the American people know what we know."

Earlier this week, the president promoted to his 83 million followers a tweet from 1980s game-show host and fervent Trump supporter Chuck Woolery.

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"The most outrageous lies are the ones about Covid 19," Woolery wrote. "Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust. I think it's all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election. I'm sick of it."

Giroir went on to address how quickly information about the pandemic can change.

"We're learning every day, but nobody lies to the American people," he said. "We're completely transparent and honest. That's my job as a public servant. We take that as really a sacred oath, to be honest and really let the American people know what's going on."

Trump's retweet of Woolery came as the White House seeks to discredit the country's leading infectious disease expert and Giroir's colleague, Dr. Anthony Fauci. On Sunday, one Trump official gave NBC News a list of nearly a dozen past comments by Fauci that the official said ultimately proved to be wrong.

Responding to the broadside against Fauci, Giroir said, "Look, none of us are always right, and we admit that. I think we have a good relationship, the vice president listens to us all. We meet regularly during the task force, so we're just gonna keep our heads down and (work) together. We have a great collegial relationship."

Giroir also clarified a claim Trump made in a July 1 interview on Fox Business Network. The president said that the coronavirus will "just disappear," despite the rising number of cases.

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"We are very confident that we're gonna beat this virus," Giroir said. "It's not just going to disappear. It's going to disappear because we take active steps to make it disappear."

The admiral also commented on the ongoing rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, particularly in Texas, Florida, Arizona and California.

"We're still very concerned because as hospitalizations go up, we would expect deaths to also go up,'' he said. "Even though we're turning the corner on the current outbreak, and all indications are that we have that, we won't see the benefit in hospitalizations and deaths for at least another couple weeks."

"None of us feel comfortable. Nobody's doing a victory lap. We're all very concerned, all hands on deck in the field," he continued, adding that the percentage of positive tests has "leveled off or (is) going down" in "most of the jurisdictions that we have a problem with."

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He stressed social distancing, wearing a mask and avoiding bars in order to slow the spread of the virus.

"We're not there yet, but we are seeing some early light at the end of this tunnel," he said.

While the country is testing an average of 640,000 people per day, there have been lag times of four to six days or longer to receive results, which means people who are infected could be going about their lives and spreading it further while waiting for test results.

Giroir said those times are due to the high demand that big, commercial laboratories are facing. He explained that half of the tests in the country are done at hospitals, where results can come back within 24 hours, or facilities with point-of-care tests, which take 15 minutes for results.

The task force is working on getting commercial lab results back to those tested within 48 hours, according to Giroir.

Trump has also made it clear he wants schools to reopen to in-person learning this fall, which has been backed by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Many parents, teachers and school personnel across the country have expressed fears over returning to school due to the pandemic.

"We have to get the virus under control, and if we get the virus under better control, clearly kids can get back into school safely," Giroir said. "There's no such thing as no danger."