Jun 28, 2020 - Health

Health secretary says "window is closing" to get coronavirus under control

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar warned on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that the "window is closing" for the U.S. to take action and get the coronavirus under control, calling the current state of the outbreak a "very, very serious situation."

Why it matters: Azar's rhetoric stands in stark contrast to that of President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who claimed at a press briefing on Friday that the U.S. has "flattened the curve" and that much of the surge in new cases is attributable to an increase in testing.

  • Throughout the pandemic, health officials on the White House coronavirus task force have sounded the alarm about the seriousness of the crisis while political figures like Trump have sought to paint a rosier picture.
  • The reality is that the U.S. today is getting closer to the worst-case scenario envisioned in the spring — a nationwide crisis, made worse by a vacuum of political leadership, threatening to overwhelm hospitals and spread out of control.

The big picture: Azar argued that the U.S. is in better shape now than it was two months ago thanks to advances in surveillance infrastructure, testing, personal protective equipment and therapeutics.

  • He was frank, however, about the assessment that hospitalizations and deaths could increase in the next few weeks, as they're generally considered a lagging indicator to new cases.
  • Azar also pushed back on the idea that the new surge in cases is a result of reopening the country too fast, arguing, "That's not so much about what the law says on the reopening than what our behaviors are within that. If we act irresponsibly, if we don't social distance, if we don't use face coverings ... we're going to see spread of disease."

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