During the COVID briefing, Mike Pence promotes the constitutional right to hold Trump protests.

Vice President Mike Pence at a meeting of the White House Coronavirus Task Force in DC on Friday.

Joshua Roberts / Getty Images

On Friday, the White House coronavirus task force held its first public session in nearly two months. The reason for the comeback is the rapid increase in cases this week in the southern and southwestern United States, but the task force, which had been silent since the Trump administration began its efforts to encourage states to reopen the country did not have much in The way of the new orientation to report. Instead, it seemed like an opportunity for task force members Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci to explain the new calamity and convey the continuing need for social distancing in some areas.

For the task force chief, Vice President Mike Pence and other top Trump administration officials, the purpose of the event seemed to be, as usual, to cage President Donald Trump in praise for his response to a pandemic that has killed more than 120,000 Americans. The coronavirus has reappeared in effect amid state reopens encouraged by Trump, even as it has greatly declined in Europe and elsewhere, but according to Pence, that’s really nothing to worry about. Last week, the vice president published an article in the Wall Street Journal titled “There is no second wave of coronavirus.” ”

On Friday, Pence also answered questions about why the Trump campaign staged a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, ignoring his own advice to the American people to listen to local health officials (local health officials in Tulsa denounced the meeting) . The Vice President’s explanation for this was that “it is really important to recognize how important freedom and personal responsibility is to this whole equation” and to imply that the campaign rallies were part of a larger economic reopening with the intention in part to protect the American Mental Health and Prevent Suicide.

Pence kicked off the event by praising the president for keeping total American deaths below the 2.2 million Americans who could have lost their lives if they had Not Mitigation efforts have been made, something we have continually celebrated despite our highest number of cases and deaths in the world.

“The president made that decision,” said Pence. “Hands down, where we are today as a nation, for what Americans have done, for the incredible work of our health workers, for our association with governors in every state, we did exactly that. We slow down, we flatten the curve, we save lives. ”

Surprisingly, Pence later said it was “nothing short of a national achievement” that at the previous height of the pandemic, there were enough fans not to leave people dying in waiting rooms without care. This is what we could call a low bar.

Pence provided some insight into the rising cases, noting that the national case count had dropped from 30,000 a day in April to 20,000 a day earlier this month, but had now returned to a staggering 40,000 new cases in a single day. this week. He noted that only 5 percent of new cases are resulting in hospitalizations, compared to 15 percent two months ago, and celebrated the fact that “this week, there were two days when we lost less than 300 Americans.” (Earlier this month, 2,500 Americans died from COVID-19 in a single day, but more than 200 Americans who died in a single day from this disease is still a horrible tragedy.)

Congratulations were not isolated for the vice president. When it was the turn of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, he said that “now, thanks to the president and the vice president’s leadership and the hard work of our team, the United States has never been more prepared to combat COVID-19 ” However, our level of preparedness does not appear to be up to par, as months after the pandemic, the number of US cases has increased to 10 times that of the European Union. In general, Europe was earlier to deal with the disease, but also earlier to increase per capita testing capacity and, in many countries, stricter in its blocking measures. Those efforts now appear to be working, as case totals have plummeted and elements of everyday life that are still missing in the United States, such as sporting events, have already returned.

At the end of the press conference, Pence was asked about Tulsa’s concentration on the Trump campaign. In addition to his argument for preventing suicide, he defended the meeting on constitutional grounds. “Freedom of expression, the right to assemble peacefully is enshrined in the United States Constitution, and we have an upcoming election this fall,” said Pence. “We still want to give people the freedom to participate in the political process, and we respect that.” He added that despite the demonstration being held, the administration continued to ask that “people listen to leadership in their state and leadership in their local community and adhere to that guidance” on wearing costumes and avoiding mass gatherings, and continue “to reinforce that message.”

However, when a journalist asked why the campaign directly ignored the warnings from Tulsa’s top health official, Bruce Dart. no To deliver his rally, Pence re-emphasized his First Amendment argument and then seemed to make a strange comment: “It is so important that we acknowledge that as we issued a guide to reopen America now two months ago and now that all 50 states are opening “. back in our country, people go back to work, the daily lives of Americans are being restored in one step, one day at a time, “Pence said.” There are profound health implications in the blockages we ended up with. I heard a statistic not too long ago from a task force reporting that in one jurisdiction there was a 50 percent increase in the number of people who reported to emergency rooms who attempted suicide. ”

Implying that large political protests were needed to help suicide prevention was a strange thing to say, as states like Texas and Florida were in the process of closing bars and restaurants to address the growing number of cases. As for the Tulsa demonstration, we know that dozens of Secret Service officials and agents who attended the event were ordered to quarantine after two of them tested positive this week. At least eight campaign staff members who helped organize the event also tested positive. The task force is back because coronavirus cases are on the rise again. Let’s see how long it takes Pence to admit that that means we cannot go back into the daily lives of Americans.

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