Jun 28, 2020 - Health

Pence disputes that virus surge was caused by states reopening too quickly

Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House coronavirus task force, pushed back on CBS News' "Face the Nation" on Sunday against claims that the new surge of coronavirus cases is a result of states reopening too quickly.

Why it matters: Public health experts, including the task force's own Anthony Fauci, largely agree that increased mobility and social contact stemming from the lifting of lockdown restrictions are driving spikes in infections.

  • Most of the states that began reopening in May did not meet the White House's guidelines for declining cases.
  • Former CDC director Tom Frieden equated states reopening while cases were still growing to "leaning into a left hook," warning on "Fox News Sunday" that the outbreaks are only going to get worse and that effects of new restrictions won't be seen for a few weeks.

Driving the news: New cases are skyrocketing in a number of states that reopened early and aggressively after initially avoiding large-scale outbreaks. Texas and Florida — two of the largest current hot spots in the U.S. — have had to pause parts of their reopening plans in a desperate effort to curb the spread of the virus.

  • Florida on Friday banned serving alcohol onsite at bars, and Texas closed bars completely and limited restaurant occupancy. Pence said he fully supports the efforts by both states' leadership.

Between the lines: Other countries that waited longer to reopen and did so more cautiously have not seen the same dramatic spike in new cases that the U.S. has experienced. Pence and President Trump have partially blamed the surge on increased testing, but health experts say that this doesn't fully explain the massive spike in cases.

What he's saying: "I know there's a temptation to associate the new cases in the Sunbelt with reopening, but it's important to remember that states like Florida and like Texas actually began to open up in early May. For the better part of six weeks, John, we did not see any significant movement," Pence said.

  • "In my conversations with governors in Florida and in Texas — and in Arizona in particular — we're monitoring very closely their hospitalization rate, and we continue to be very confident that they have the supplies and the support and the capacity to give people the ... level of care that any of us would want a family member to have."

The bottom line: As the U.S. struggles to contain the coronavirus and barrels toward disaster, Pence defended the Trump administration's response and insisted that the country is in a better place than it was four months ago.

Go deeper: The coronavirus surge is real, and it's everywhere

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