Coronavirus task force briefs – but not to the White House

WASHINGTON (AP) – There were no presidential appearances and no White House backdrops on Friday when the government’s coronavirus task force first informed the public since April – in accordance with the effort of the administration to show that it pays attention to the last peak of cases, but not on a war footing which should prevent the country from reopening the economy.

The briefing at the Department of Health and Human Services took place as the number of new confirmed coronavirus infections per day in the United States reached an all-time high of 40,000 – even more than during the deadliest period April and May. In light of the new wave, members of the task force have carefully chosen their words to inform the public about COVID-19, which has become both a public health and political problem.


Vice President Mike Pence had the most delicate line to cross. He acknowledged an upsurge of new cases in the South and West, while supporting the President’s desire to revive the economy and make it work without mentioning that this would also promote the prospects of re-election.

“As we see new cases increasing and following them very carefully, the American people may tend to think that we are back to where we were two months ago – in times of great losses and great hardship for the American people, “said Pence.

But the vice president also noted the numbers of positive jobs and added, “The reality is that we are in a much better place.”

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Not being bound by politics, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease specialist, had a more cautious tone.

“As you can see, we are facing a serious problem in certain areas,” said Fauci. But he also took care not to blame the recent flare-up of rallies where people didn’t wear face masks or adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Pence cleverly avoided the pointed questions about the apparent dissonance between the administration’s warnings that the Americans are heeding the advice of local officials and President Donald Trump’s decision to organize a political rally last week in Tulsa, in Oklahoma, facing objection from health officials. And at a Trump event in Arizona on Tuesday, thousands of young participants violated Phoenix’s mandate to wear masks.

Stressing that Trump was “taking the appropriate action,” Pence invoked the constitutional protection of freedom of expression, saying, “We always want to give people the freedom to participate in the political process.”

The White House in the past two months has virtually eliminated coronavirus task force briefings and dramatically reduced the public appearances of its medical experts as Trump focused on reviving the country. The return of the briefing was a sign that the administration knows that it cannot ignore the growing anxiety faced with the increase in the number of cases while the governors of certain states suspend or delay the reopening.


But briefings should not come back with the same daily frequency. And it is no coincidence, officials said, that Friday’s briefing took place at HHS rather than the White House. The president is still determined to threaten an economic resurgence even in the face of the outbreak of infections.

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Pence said 16 states are seeing worrying increases – up from 12 states on Wednesday. He said that there was still work to be done, but that it was important to reflect on what the federal and state governments and health care workers have done to respond to the pandemic.

“This time of the coronavirus pandemic is different” from the dark days when New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Orleans were struggling under the weight of the pandemic, he said.

America has since accelerated testing to 500,000 a day, which has helped increase the number of new cases reported, said Pence. He plans to travel next week to Texas, Arizona and Florida; previously scheduled trips to COVID-19 hotspots were initially intended to be more political in nature, but will now focus more on the virus.

“I just encourage every American to keep praying,” said Pence in closing. “Pray for all the families who have lost loved ones. Pray for our front line health workers. And just keep on praying that by the grace of God we will do our part every day to heal our land. “

Back at the White House, meanwhile, Trump hosted a job-oriented event in the East Room and delivered this must-have message:

“We have a little bit of work to do and we will do it. We have very good figures in terms of return, return of our nation and I think it’s going very quickly and it’s going to be very good. “

Source: AP News

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