U.S. Vice President Mike Pence stands in front of a map of the United States showing the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as the number of new cases per 100,000 population, while Pence in the Brady press conference briefed White’s coronavirus task force House heads room at the White House in Washington, the United States, Nov. 19, 2020.
Leah Millis | Reuters
Vice President Mike Pence tried to reassure Americans on Thursday evening that the country was “ready” to deal with the problem Coronavirus outbreak Even though the country’s top health authority warns that the new deaths caused by Covid-19 will accelerate into winter.
The White House event marked the coronavirus task force’s first press conference since July, as well as the first such press conference since Covid-19 cases, which reached its highest ever level in the United States. The US reported more than 170,100 new cases of the virus on Wednesday. This is the second highest one-day increase reported to date, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
As of Wednesday, more than 79,400 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 across the country, more than any other time during the pandemic. This comes from data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project, which is run by journalists in the Atlantic. Hospitals in some parts of the country are overwhelmed and are setting up their capacities to care for as many patients as possible.
Pence, who officially heads the task force, and other officials at the briefing repeatedly assured Americans that the US is well equipped to tackle the crisis.
“America has never been more ready to fight this virus than it is today,” Pence said at the beginning of the briefing. “Our promise to every American who watches today is that we will work around the clock to keep it that way.”
While acknowledging the rising numbers of infections and hospitalizations across the country, Pence instead focused on positive vaccine developments in recent weeks, saying the country could have one or more safe and effective vaccines “in a short time”.
“We’re going there America,” said Pence.
Task force members, including coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, presented various aspects of the outbreak.
Birx, who wore a mask while speaking, noted that cases are increasing faster than ever before with the outbreak, but added that “we know what to do”. She urged Americans to “remain vigilant” and follow public health precautions such as wearing a mask and practicing physical distancing.
She added that around half of those admitted to hospitals across the country are between 40 and 69 years old, while half are over 70, putting them at increased risk of death. Though Pence noted the country “cut the death rate by more than 70%” for people over 70 years of age compared to April when the US reported more than 2,000 deaths over several days.
Fauci also urged Americans to take precautions as they await vaccinations.
“Now I’ve used that metaphor that the cavalry is on its way. When you’re in a battle and the cavalry is on its way, don’t stop shooting,” Fauci said. “You keep going until the cavalry gets here and then you might even want to keep fighting.”
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said “We see the light at the end of the tunnel” referring to vaccines. But he reiterated Fauci and Birx’s point that now is the time for “Americans to redo their efforts to be vigilant”.
He added that it is important to make data-driven decisions, especially when considering more business and society constraints. For example, he said, the data shows that K-12 schools can responsibly and safely operate personal learning. He said “small family gatherings” are driving much of the outbreak.
But neither Pence nor any other task force member asked questions after the long briefing, and President Donald Trumpwho once regularly led the briefings did not appear.
“We stand around the corner until we have a vaccine,” said Pence, before encouraging Americans to continue taking precautions like wearing masks and maintaining social distance.
“I know that with the collaboration of the American people, with our incredible doctors and nurses and first responders, with the extraordinary partnership of federal, state and local health agencies, and with God’s help, we will get through this and make it through them together “said Pence.
Then he turned and left the room, followed by the rest of the White House officials, all neglecting a flurry of questions raised by the pandemic-limited number of journalists in the area.
“Are you really not going to ask questions?” yelled a reporter as Pence left. “What’s happening?” shouted another.
The presentation from the White House does not seem to align with the CDC’s news. The previous Thursday, the agency broke their silence and held a rare press conference in which Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s Covid-19 incident manager, said “we are alarmed” about the state of the US outbreak. He added that the nation is seeing “an exponential increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths”.
The CDC has updated its forecast for Covid-19 deaths Earlier this week it said: “Newly reported COVID-19 deaths are likely to increase over the next four weeks. In the week leading up to December 12, 2020, 7,300 to 16,000 new deaths are expected to be reported.”
In the worst case scenario, it could mean more than 2,000 deaths a day by mid-December. According to the CDC’s best estimate, that would mean the country continues to report more than 1,000 deaths a day.
Trump was practically silent about the growing threat from the virus long before the November 3rd election between him and President-elect Joe Biden. As temperatures plummeted and cases rose across the country, Trump continued to hold personal, large-scale campaign rallies in front of thousands of his supporters in a number of key swing states.
During the recent rally in these states, Trump spent relatively little time discussing the pandemic that had engulfed the final year of his presidency, other than ensuring vaccines would be on the way soon.
Since election day, Trump has not answered any public questions from reporters and made few appearances on camera.