Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged coronavirus infections and hospitalizations are rising across the U.S. during the first briefing by the White House coronavirus task force since July, striking a far different tone than President Trump, who was not in attendance as he continues to rage against the election results in relative solitude.
In the briefing’s first several minutes, Pence stated case numbers were “rising” five times, a reality the president has yet to acknowledge:
In the weeks leading up to the election, even as the pandemic took a sharp turn for the worse, Trump repeatedly claimed the U.S. was “rounding the turn” and that the virus would go away after the election.
Pence sought to defend the president during the briefing, claiming Trump had “directed” the task force to hold the briefing, while also touting the steps the Trump administration had taken to prepare for the second surge: “America has never been more prepared to combat this virus than we are today,” the vice president claimed.
Fauci sought to calm Americans’ nerves about the safety of a vaccine—which Pence claimed Thursday could be “weeks” away—saying the “speed” at which scientists worked to create a viable shot “did not at all compromise safety.”
Birx used the briefing to call on Americans to “increase their vigilance” and to “really limit interactions indoors to immediate households.”
“We have a plan in place that the moment the FDA concludes that that vaccine is safe and effective, we have a system in place to begin within 24 hours shipping that vaccine,” Pence said.
Both Pence and President-elect Joe Biden, who delivered remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, minutes before the White House briefing, reiterated their opposition to a national lockdown. The vice president said Thursday that both he and Trump do “not support another nationwide lockdown,” even though the U.S. never actually had a national lockdown. “I am not going to shut down the economy, period. I’m going to shut down the virus,” Biden said, similarly.
Centers For Disease Control Director Robert Redfield, a Trump appointee, said the agency’s guidance on schools has not changed since spring: “They can do it safely, and they can do it responsibly,” he said, calling for schools to remain open.