Azar warns that ‘the window is closing’ to combat the spread of Covid

His call for the use of universal masks went beyond any comments made so far by Trump or Vice President Mike Pence, who have largely avoided discussing public health precaution. Both of them, particularly Trump, have generally avoided wearing masks in public.

However, Azar echoed many of the same talking points that Pence made at Friday’s HHS press conference downplaying the severity of the resurgent outbreaks by emphasizing that a large portion of new infections in younger people they are less likely to be hospitalized. Azar also noted that doctors know more about treating the virus now than at the start of the pandemic, and they have some medications that appear to help some seriously ill patients.

At that press conference, the first held by the White House coronavirus task force in two months, the vice president declined to recommend masks even when asked directly. He also downplayed outbreaks, which are so severe that a handful of states are moving to close bars and beaches as localized “hot spots”.

But by holding the event at HHS rather than the White House and including only health officials, compared to briefings past by Trump, his economic advisers and administration-friendly CEOs, the task force emphasized the seriousness of the current moment, when the country seems to be losing ground weeks after coming out of painful blocks.