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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

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases rose 10% in the week before Thanksgiving.
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions.
  3. World: Expert says COVID vaccine likely won't be available in Africa until Q2 of 2021 — Europeans extend lockdowns.
  4. Economy: The winners and losers of the COVID holiday season.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.
Nov 26, 2020 - Health

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon tests positive for COVID-19

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R) has tested positive for COVID-19, his office announced Wednesday, per CBS News.

The state of play: The governor has minor symptoms and will continue working remotely, according to his office.

Nov 25, 2020 - Health

Beware a Thanksgiving mirage

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Don't be surprised if COVID metrics plunge over the next few days, only to spike next week.

Why it matters: The COVID Tracking Project warns of a "double-weekend pattern" on Thanksgiving — where the usual weekend backlog of data is tacked on to a holiday.