'We're not going to get control of the pandemic': White House chief of staff says focus is on vaccines and therapeutics

Asked why Trump supporters at rallies aren’t required to wear masks, Mark Meadow says: ‘We live in a free society’

Griffin Connolly
Washington DC
Sunday 25 October 2020 14:57 GMT
Dr Fauci says Covid vaccine may be ready by November
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Louise Thomas

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White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has suggested that the Trump administration has all but given up on limiting the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, instead focusing on producing a viable vaccine and upgrading treatment for people who have tested positive and are experiencing symptoms.

“We’re not going to control the pandemic,” Mr Meadows said in an interview with CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday.

“We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics, and other mitigation,” he said.

Asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper why the US can’t take steps to reduce the number of cases, Mr Meadows pointed to the virus’ super-spreading nature.

“It’s a contagious virus just like the flu,” the chief of staff said.

During the contentious back-and-forth, Mr Tapper asked Mr Meadows why the Trump re-election campaign was continuing to hold large rallies without requiring supporters to wear masks.

“We live in a free society,” Mr Meadows said, firing back that Mr Tapper was not wearing a mask while conducting the interview.

Mr Tapper noted he was the only person in the studio and that he wears a mask everywhere he goes in public.

The Trump administration has repeatedly pushed back agains the guidance and comments of public health officials throughout the pandemic, largely spurning wearing masks in the West Wing and persisting with the president’s signature in-person rallies.

Mr Meadows on Sunday taunted Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden for warning this past week there was a “dark winter ahead” with regard to Covid-19.

“Health officials did not say dark winter,” Mr Meadows said, although several US experts have predicted there will be a deadly rise in cases and deaths this fall and winter that, combined with the common flu season, threatens to devastate hospital systems.

The US is on track for “the worst fall, from a public health perspective, we’ve ever had,” Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield said in July.

The US reported its highest single-day total of new Covid-19 cases on Friday, as cases continue to surge with the onset of autumn weather and relaxed social distancing steps taken by the public.

Officials recorded more than 83,000 new cases on Friday, several thousand more than the previous record set in July of 77,000 cases in a single day.

Mr Trump addressed the rise in cases during a campaign rally in Lumberton, North Carolina, on Saturday by blaming testing.

“You know why we have cases? It’s because we test so much,” the president told his rally crowd. “In a lot of ways it’s good, and in a lot of ways it’s foolish.” 

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