Coronavirus: Pence boasts of 'remarkable progress' and 'rolling' retail sales as US cases surge

VP's positive message fails to align with spiking cases in places like Texas and Arizona

John T. Bennett
Washington Bureau Chief
Friday 26 June 2020 18:49 BST
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Despite a surge in coronavirus cases in the Sun Belt region, Vice President Mike Pence on Friday bragged about what he called "remarkable progress" made by the Trump administration – even touting "rolling" retail sales as states re-open.

The vice president did acknowledge "rising cases in the southern states", but he repeatedly said the administration's focus has been "to save lives." That echoes Donald Trump, who on Thursday bragged about what he called America's best-in-the-world "mortality rate."

"But we still have work to do," the VP said, calling on all Americans to do their part to help slow the disease's spread.

Later, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said some states opened up in a "prudent manner." But, in others, "we have a serious problem," he noted.

In a direct plea to young people, Mr Pence said: "None of us would want to bring [it] back to our grandparents" or "an elderly friend." (Older people are most at risk to catch the virus, and either get extremely ill or die.)

Mr Fauci made a similar plea to young people, though he was sure to say he didn't want to make anyone or any group feel they are to blame for the spike in the Sun Belt area.

"If you get infected, you will infect someone else who will infect someone else," Mr Fauci said. "And ultimately, will infect someone who is vulnerable."

Those pleas were the same the duo made in March and April.

Asked if the task force expects the US death rate to rise over the next few weeks, Mr Pence said it is "our hope and our prayer that it does not."

Mr Pence attempted at one point to put a positive face on some of the new Covid-19 numbers, including that more people between the ages of 20 and 30 are contracting the virus. He called that a "good thing" because younger people are less likely to need hospital care or to die from the respiratory ailment.

And he called it "encouraging news, to say the least" that 5 per cent of those with the disease now need to be admitted to a hospital, down from 15 per cent a few months back.

So serious, however, is the spike in Texas that that state's government rolled back some of its re-opening policies on Friday. Other states, like Arizona, have seen one-day records in cases and hospitalisations shattered multiple times over the last few weeks. Florida broke a record with nearly 9,000 new cases. Like Texas, Florida ordered all bars to close immediately.

Still, the VP said Americans should find solace because the number of Covid-caused deaths is declining.

"This week, there were two days we lost less than 200 Americans," said the coronavirus task force chairman during the group's first briefing in two months.

Asked if he has concerns about how wearing or not wearing a mask has become a political statement for many Americans, Mr Pence launched into a reply about complying with state and local orders, apparently an attempt to shift blame on what he called the southern "outbreaks."

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