Vice President Mike Pence portrayed a more optimistic picture of the United States’ response to the coronavirus than that of several health officials, saying that states are “opening up safely and responsibly,” even when health officials reported a one-day record of 39,327 new infections. Thursday.
Pence made the remarks when the White House coronavirus task force held its first briefing in two months, acknowledging the alarming increase in new outbreaks in several states, including Texas and Florida.
He insisted that closures of the economy and measures of social distancing, followed by the gradual reopening of public places by states, had worked.
“We slow down, we flatten the curve, we save lives,” he said. But renewed concern in some states was evident when Florida, which reported nearly 9,000 positive cases Thursday, and Texas, which has also seen a spike, imposed new restrictions on the bars.
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But he acknowledged that “now we have begun to see cases increase precipitously throughout the South.”
Pence, whom President Donald Trump commissioned to chair the task force, spoke about these new infection rates and focused on the need for young people in particular to practice social distancing measures. He called it “encouraging news” that half of the new cases were from people under the age of 35, but he also implored them to take precautions.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the task force and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he did not want it to appear that someone was at fault. But he said, “You have an individual responsibility to yourself, but you have a social responsibility.”
Pence was reluctant to explicitly encourage the use of masks in public spaces, leaving it up to state and local officials. Trump has refused to wear a mask and Pence has rarely been seen in public wearing one.
“The first principle is that people should listen to their state and local authorities,” said Pence.
He also suggested that the recent increase was due to increased evidence, an argument Trump has made.
“We want the American people to understand that it is almost indisputable that more evidence leads to more cases,” said Pence. But epidemiologists have challenged that notion, noting that the positivity rate has yet to drop.
Pence also defended the recent Trump rally in Tulsa and, earlier this week, and the president’s appearance in a packed auditorium of the Phoenix church before young supporters.
“Freedom of expression, the right to peaceful assembly, is enshrined in the United States Constitution,” he said. “And we have an upcoming election this fall.”
CBS News correspondent at the White House, Paula Reid, however, pushed him further.
“It really sounds like you’re saying, ‘Do what we say, not what we do.’ You are telling people to listen to local officials, but in Tulsa, you challenged local health officials to have an event that, despite that you say it did not result in a spike, dozens of Secret Service agents, dozens of campaign employees are now quarantined. After the positive tests. And then, in Arizona, one of the most affected states, you filled out a church with young people who were not wearing masks. So how can you say that the campaign is not part of the problem that Dr. Fauci raised?
Pence replied: “Even in a health crisis, the American people do not lose our constitutional rights, and by working with state officials, as we did in Oklahoma, as we did in Arizona, we are creating environments in which people can choose to participate. . the political process, and we will continue to do so. “
After Pence wrapped up the briefing, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta was particularly forthright in his criticism of the failure of efforts to stop or even curb the spread.
“Despite what you hear, we are in the midst of a public health disaster,” Gupta said on CNN, right after the meeting.