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White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows defended Vice President Pence's decision to continue traveling and campaigning despite his exposure to staff who have tested positive for COVID-19, saying Sunday that Pence is exempt from CDC guidelines because he is "essential personnel."

Why it matters: CDC guidelines call for people who have been exposed to the virus to quarantine for 14 days. Meadows said on CNN's "State of the Union" that Pence will wear a mask when he travels and argued that "he's not just campaigning," pointing to the Israel-Sudan normalization agreement announced by the White House last week.

The big picture: Meadows told CNN that "we are not going to control the pandemic," dismissing the notion that the appropriate COVID policy should be to "quarantine all of America." Instead, Meadows argued, the focus should be on developing vaccines and therapeutics "to give Americans the relief that this is not a death sentence."

The exchange:

MEADOWS: "We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas -- "
JAKE TAPPER: "Why not get control of the pandemic?"
MEADOWS: "Because it is a contagious virus just like the flu."
TAPPER: "But why not make efforts to contain it?"
MEADOWS: "Well we are making efforts to contain it."
TAPPER: "By running all over the country and not wearing a mask? That's what the vice president is doing."
MEADOWS: "Let me just say this. What we need to do is make sure that we have the proper mitigation factors, whether it's therapies or vaccines or treatments, to make sure that people don't die from this. But to suggest that we are going to actually quarantine all of America --"
TAPPER: "No one's saying that."

Driving the news: The U.S. reported over 80,000 new cases on Saturday for the second consecutive day. The government's top infectious-disease expert Anthony Fauci told MSNBC earlier this month the U.S. is "facing a whole lot of trouble" as it heads into the winter, with cold weather likely to contribute to further spread of the virus.

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

Ex-CDC director Tom Frieden on the next COVID-19 vaccines

Americans fortunate enough to receive COVID vaccines now, outside of clinical trials, are getting shots made by either Pfizer or Moderna. But newly released data from Novavax and Johnson & Johnson suggests that more vaccines could be on the way, with J&J's requiring a single dose.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the news and why it matters with Tom Frieden, former head of the CDC, as COVID-19 variants spread globally.

Updated 18 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

WHO says most pregnant women can now receive coronavirus vaccine

A doctor administering Moderna's coronavirus vaccine at a university hospital in Essen, Germany, on Jan. 18. Photo: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

The World Health Organization has altered its guidance for pregnant women who wish to receive the coronavirus vaccine, saying now that those at high risk of exposure to the COVID-19 or who have comorbidities that increase their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated.

Why it matters: The WHO drew backlash for its previous guidance that did not recommend pregnant women be inoculated with vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, even though data indicated that pregnancy increased the risk of developing severe illness from the virus.