“We may be done with the pandemic, but the pandemic is not with us,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, on Tuesday.
“It makes sense that so many Americans feel like we are finished and have some sense of apathy,” he said.
Jha said it comes down to three things.
And third, Jha said that the Americans were done with it because of “our president’s communication, which has clearly moved on.”
“The reality is that the virus is with us. The reality is that the first wave only hit a few places – now it’s happening in all the other places. It arrives in a county or city or state near you, ”says Jha.
Pence does the case
Pence urged governors on Monday to take into account increased testing for increased cases. And on Tuesday, he wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal claiming that there is “no second wave” of coronavirus. Pence also visited Iowa on Tuesday, where he had lunch at a local restaurant with Republican Governor Kim Reynolds and made remarks to Winnebago Industries touting the “recovery” of the United States.
At the restaurant, neither Pence nor Reynolds, nor the owner of the restaurant nor the customers wore a mask, and he did not practice social distancing by greeting the guests. Pence also openly flouted the social distancing guidelines last week with a trip to Trump campaign headquarters, posting a photo deleted since with a large group of tightly grouped campaign staff, none of whom are wearing masks. .
Pence attributed an increase in US coronavirus cases to an increase in tests when he called on Monday with the country’s governors. But these comments came in the context of a long conversation between Pence, the Secretary of Health and Social Services Alex Azar and Dr. Deborah Birx about the increase in cases that were not attributed to the increase in tests .
“I would just like to encourage you all, as we talk about these things, be sure to explain to your citizens the scale of the increase in testing and in that, in most cases where we see a marginal increase , it’s more a result of the amazing work you’re doing, expanding the tests using this public-private partnership that the president forged months ago, “said Pence to the governors, according to the audio from the call obtained by CNN.
The increase in the number of tests is likely to find more cases. Another key figure is the rate of positive tests – if it is high or growing, it indicates that a community is not doing enough tests necessary to identify and isolate cases, which can slow an epidemic. While the overall number of cases or a state’s positivity rates may appear to be stable or improving, more specific data is needed so that some communities can understand where epidemics occur and are likely to grow.
Pence also said during the call that there are specific areas where there has been “some increase in cases that are not necessarily fully explained by increased testing”, pointing to areas in North Carolina , California and Arizona, where, he said, the CDC has redeployed additional staff.
An official familiar with the work of the task force was more direct and told CNN that the increase in cases was also due to more infections.
“They just don’t want to face reality,” said Trump official Pence and other senior officials. “They are in denial. ”
And a senior official at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told CNN that Pence selectively chooses the data to make his case.
“I do not know what its source is on this information, but it is not correct,” said the CDC senior official on Pence’s assertion that only a small percentage of places in the United States see an increase in cases. “You can choose from a handful of counties and use it as a way to say things are not as bad as they seem. But this is not the reality. ”
The CDC senior official added: “Our data shows that it continues to spread, especially in communities of color. These are both higher rates and disproportionate numbers. By state, the numbers are absolutely increasing and they are increasing in states that opened earlier. . ”
Azar expressed concern about the increasing trends in positive tests in certain areas.
“We were concerned with examining the data showing in many states the increasing trends in cases, but the increasing trends in positive tests … which leads us to delve very deeply into the data at the county level, and it reveals that we have problems in some state counties, “said Azar.
“My message would be just as governors, you can’t just look at your data at the state level to feel that you’re in a good position, you actually have to go down to the county level because that’s where you go to see if you are facing a real epidemic scenario that could be meat, nursing homes and could be of another origin, “he added.
Birx explained that due to increased testing, more cases, including asymptomatic and presymptomatic cases, are in the community rather than in hospitals.
“So I never get discouraged that the number of cases increases when you test the positivity rate. Really amazing work you do and I think you should be commended for it. We have isolated and I’m going to mention a few, “she said.
Birx said Wake County and Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, where the Republican National Convention was to be held later this summer, are experiencing increased positivity.
“Such panic is exaggerated”
And in the Wall Street Journal, Pence accused the media of causing “panic” over a second wave of coronavirus.
“In recent days, the media has raised the alarm over a” second wave “of coronavirus infections. Such panic is exaggerated. Thanks to President Trump’s leadership and the courage and compassion of the American people, our public health care system is much stronger than it was four months ago, and we are winning the fight against the invisible enemy, “wrote Pence, citing expansion of testing, supply production and medical research.
Hundreds of Americans continue to die from the coronavirus every day, and many public health experts, including the administration’s own experts, predict a second wave.
The latest coronavirus forecasts from the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation take into account seasonal forecasts. The institute’s model has been frequently cited by the White House.
The director of the Institute for Metrology and Health Assessment, Dr. Christopher Murray, said that “seasonality will be a very big driver of the second wave, we think,” during a briefing last week describing a death toll model that has since been increased.
“The increase in daily deaths is really starting to pick up in mid-September,” said Murray.
And CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield warned of the importance of the flu vaccine in the context of a second wave earlier this month, saying at a House Credit Committee hearing : “If a second wave of coronavirus strikes when the flu season is underway, it could really weigh on hospitals. ”
Pence boasts around 500,000 tests performed each day, and 23 million tests in total, in the editorial, although that is far from what experts say is necessary. He also said the United States was “on track to have a viable vaccine by the fall”, although Dr. Anthony Fauci suggested that the schedule was too early.
In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer last week, Fauci said he was confident that a trial would have brought together a large number of subjects and that there would be an answer as to whether it works “by the end of the year “.
But, he warned, “There is never a guarantee that a vaccine – and we have several candidates, not just one – that will be safe and effective. ”
After crucial weeks in which the President downplayed the coronavirus earlier this year and actively lied to Americans about its potential impact, wasting time as the virus spreads to the United States, the administration has paralyzed key efforts of the CDC to put in place a coordinated response to the pandemic.
However, Pence on Tuesday accused the media, which sought to provide information of these experts to the American people, of having sown fear.
“The media has tried to scare the American people every step of the way, and these bleak second wave predictions are no different,” Pence wrote.
It indicates an administration which takes political considerations before public health.
Trump and Pence are expected to hold a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, later this week, where social distancing will be unlikely and face masks will be optional.
“It is really time, Ainsley, that we start this campaign. The president wants to be absent, he wants to be in contact with our supporters. Literally, more than a million people have signed up to try and have the opportunity to attend the “, said Pence in a Fox News appearance on Tuesday.
“Freedom of expression, the right to assemble peacefully is enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution and the President and I are very confident that we will be able to resume these rallies to tell the story of what the President has done in depth these unprecedented times, but also in the past three and a half years, “he continued.
The head of the administration close to the task force said that he was not asked to give his blessing at the campaign rally.
“They know better,” said the official.
This story was updated with additional reporting on Tuesday evening.
CNN’s Jim Acosta, Nick Valencia, Maggie Fox and Jamie Gumbrecht contributed to this report.