Pence projects confidence in Covid response as pandemic worsens nationwide

0

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday touted “great progress” against the coronavirus pandemic during the first White House task force briefing in months as the country experiences record-high cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

“America has never been more prepared to combat this virus than we are today,” Pence told reporters. He declined to take questions despite the worsening crisis and tensions following the presidential election, even as President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede could hamper the fight against coronavirus.

Task force coordinator Deborah Birx and the government’s top infectious disease doctor, Anthony Fauci, touted progress on efforts to develop a vaccine, but urged the public to continue social distancing, wearing masks and avoiding gatherings until the vaccine is widely available, as community spread continues to rage across the country.

“If you are fighting a battle and the calvary is on the way, you don’t stop shooting. You keep shooting until the help gets there,” Fauci said. Officials have cautioned that a vaccine won’t be available to the general public until spring 2021, at the earliest.

The task force briefing — the first since July — comes the day after the U.S. reported a quarter-million deaths from Covid-19. Hours earlier, the CDC released new guidance advising Americans not to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday and to limit gatherings to people within their immediate households.

Similar guidance imposed by state health departments was criticized as “Orwellian” by White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday.

There was no mention of the CDC’s new recommendations against Thanksgiving travel during Thursday’s press conference, despite CDC Director Robert Redfield being in attendance. Instead, task force members, including Redfield, generally advised Americans to remain cautious.

Pence also touted the administration’s efforts to secure PPE for hospitals, but did not address workforce shortages that are currently plaguing health systems that are reaching capacity — especially in Midwestern states that are seeing a significant surge in infections.

The vice president repeatedly assailed the idea of a national lockdown and called on schools to reopen, enlisting Elinore McCance-Katz, the assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, to speak about the mental health consequences of remote learning.

Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden and his team have discussed the need for targeted restrictions in regions of the country seeing aggressive community transmission and have been outspoken about the need for mask mandates.

The press conference comes as more than 11 million Americans have been infected by coronavirus and at least 70,000 are hospitalized.

View original post