VP Pence Tells Governors President's Comment On Slowing Testing Was 'A Passing Observation'

Monday, June 22nd 2020, 12:50 pm
By: CBS News

President Trump's comments at a weekend campaign rally in Oklahoma about slowing down testing for coronavirus were just "a passing observation" and not meant in jest, Vice President Mike Pence told the nation's governors on Monday.

Pence also said that the Trump administration remains focused on rising cases in nine states, with the situation stable in the other 41, and he told the governors that medical officials are seeing a growing trend of more people under age 45 testing positive for coronavirus.

"We are seeing steady progress in the vast majority of states," Pence told the governors, according to one person listening in on the call.

Multiple people listening to Monday's regularly scheduled conference call with governors shared highlights with CBS News.

Pence clarified the president's comments about testing under questioning by Nevada Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak, who sought assurances that state and federal leaders are still on the same page about the importance of testing for COVID-19 as the rate of cases continues surging across southern and western states. According to a transcript released by his office, Sisolak told Pence, "The president's comments on Saturday night as related to his order to slow down the testing is certainly not helpful." 

He said that officials in Nevada are "doing everything we can" to increase testing, and the fact that the number of cases in the state has gone up is "not solely a result of more testing, it's also a result of more people not wearing masks and not following the social protocols."

"[I]f we could all get on the same page and get a commitment that there is not a federal mandate to slow down testing, I think it would be extremely helpful," Sisolak told Pence. 

On Saturday night in Tulsa, Mr. Trump called increased testing for coronavirus "a double-edged sword."

"Here's the bad part… when you do testing to that extent, you're going to find more people; you're going to find more cases," Trump told the roughly 6,200 people in attendance. "So I said to my people, slow the testing down please."

Alexander Tin and Jack Turman contributed to this report.

During the call, Pence also called on Republican governors from Florida, Texas and Arizona to explain how they're handling a sharp rise in infection in their states. Pence and other officials on the call especially praised Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis for his management of a record number of infections in the Sunshine State. DeSantis reiterated what he has said publicly – that increased testing among younger, asymptomatic people is driving the rate of infection.