With COVID-19 cases surging in the United States, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows acknowledged that the Trump administration can’t stop the spread and is focusing instead on getting a vaccine.
“We’re not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
President Donald Trump largely shuns wearing a mask and has repeatedly insisted at campaign rallies that the U.S. is “rounding the corner” when it comes to the coronavirus. But Meadows on Sunday appeared to contradict that assessment. When pressed why the U.S. won’t get control of the pandemic, he replied: “Because it is a contagious virus just like the flu.”
Meadows says the administration is making efforts to contain the virus and predicts “we’re going to defeat it.” Meadows says “our ability to handle this has improved each and every day.”
The U.S. set a daily record Friday for new confirmed coronavirus infections and nearly matched it Saturday with 83,178, data published by Johns Hopkins University shows. Close to 8.6 million Americans have contracted the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and about 225,000 have died; both totals are the world’s highest.
Meanwhile White House officials on Sunday scoffed at the notion of dialing back in-person campaigning despite positive tests from several aides to Vice-President Mike Pence, who leads the White House coronavirus task force.
Meadows says that he spoke with Pence overnight and that the vice-president told him he is wearing a mask and social distancing, except when he is speaking at a rally. Meadows says “he’s wearing a mask as it relates to this particular thing because the doctors have advised him to do that.”
“If Pence did not self-quarantine it would violate every core public health principle his own task force recommends,” said Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University school of law. “It’s one standard for the vice president and another for all the rest of us.”
Pence himself tested negative, his office said. Under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria, the vice-president is considered a “close contact” of his chief of staff, Marc Short, but will not quarantine.
Meadows was also pressed on whether he sought to quash news of an outbreak among close advisers to Pence. Meadows says “sharing personal information is not something that we should do, not something that we do actually do, unless it’s the vice-president or the president, or someone that’s very close to them where there is people in harm’s way.”
Thousands of supporters have been attending President Donald Trump’s campaign rallies in the final weeks of the presidential election. Meadows says the campaign offers masks to attendees but does not require them to wear it “because we live in a free society.”