How Trump’s team diverted their return from the coronavirus victory

Pence’s pro-mask backing received praise from corners of the administration on Monday. A senior administration official said it was “a step in the right direction that President Trump should also take.”

Anne Schuchat, senior deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, commented that “we need everyone to be involved right now,” during a Monday webinar organized by the Journal of the American Medical Association. (Schuchat did not specifically quote Pence, but spoke after the magazine’s editor-in-chief praised the vice president for coming out in favor of the masks over the weekend.)

But other recent comments by Pence, including his victory lap during Friday’s press conference on the quantity of medical supplies and equipment purchased by the administration, marked a jarring contrast against the alarm bells that senior health officials sounded. last week.

“There are more cases. There are more hospitalizations in some of those places and you will see more deaths soon, ”Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the White House coronavirus task force health experts, said during the task force briefing while Pence watched silently.

“The window is closing,” added HHS Secretary Alex Azar during an appearance on NBC Sunday morning. “We have to act, and people as individuals have to act responsibly.”

Azar’s comments predicted the sharpest tone he and Pence have adopted in the past 48 hours, as more than a dozen states face alarming waves in confirmed Covid-19 cases that could overwhelm hospitals and sink to some communities in blocking residents and business owners. I look forward to avoiding.

Six states, Texas, Florida, Idaho, Tennessee, Utah and Georgia on Saturday reported their highest totals of new coronavirus cases in a single day, a development Abbott described as “a very dangerous turnaround” in his state.

Senior White House officials remain divided on the best course of action as the rate of new infections increases in the US states. Some officials, including health assistants, believe that the government should offer to Americans more information on a regular basis about best practices to keep Americans safe at the Covid-19 age, as well as continual updates on new infections. Other advisers firmly believe that the White House should carry its economic message, regardless of the virus. That faction within the White House does not want regular briefings on the status of Covid-19 or too many public appearances by officials like Fauci that could sour the nation’s mood in the coming months.

The sharp rise in infections led a number of Republicans in the past 48 hours to start promoting the idea of ​​wearing masks in public or putting on their own covers.

Pence wore a mask Sunday when she got off the Texas government plane to greet the governor, as did Senator John Cornyn, White House coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, all of whom joined the vice president on his Sunday trip to Texas.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell went to the Senate on Monday to say there should be “no stigma, none, about wearing masks when we leave our homes and approach other people.”

“Using simple facial coatings is not about protecting ourselves. It’s about protecting everyone we meet, ”McConnell said, weeks after Trump poked fun at his 2020 Democratic challenger Joe Biden for wearing a mask outdoors on Memorial Day.

During Pence’s call with the governors on Monday, Abbott cited the holidays over Memorial Day weekend, as well as his decision to allow the bars to reopen, as two reasons why Texas has witnessed a dizzying increase in cases and hospitalizations in the last three weeks. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey similarly said that coronavirus cases in his state had slowed down before the latest surge, which began after restaurants, gyms, and nonessential industries received the green light to resume business in May and early June.

Waves in the south are leading other states, such as New Jersey, to halt plans to open restaurant dinners, a sign of growing concerns that hit state leaders across the country just as they hoped to leave the crisis behind.

At a coronavirus task force meeting on Friday, the adviser to President Kellyanne Conway, who led the 2016 president’s campaign, told attendees that the administration needed to clarify its priorities to the American public, including ideas on whether it was more. Important for bars in Texas and Florida to reopen this summer, or for schools to start on time in the fall, said one person familiar with the meeting.

Members of the White House coronavirus task force spent much of Monday’s call with governors focusing on the drivers behind the precipitous increase in cases, according to two people familiar with the discussion. Notably absent from the conversation were Pence and others’ previous layoffs that the increase in cases was largely the result of expanded testing.

Although Trump has continued to cling to the increase in evidence as the main explanation for the new Covid-19 outbreaks, Pence has accepted the reality that evidence alone cannot explain the increase in cases in the past week, according to one person. familiar with his thinking.

In another surprising departure from Trump, who sidelined the federal government task force last month to make sure his reopening message was direct and central, Pence specifically praised the governors on Monday for issuing new guidance or stopping their plans. to reopen. It was a significant break from their prior approval of the states that had rushed to start their economies all over again.

Fauci, an infectious disease expert who established a ubiquitous on-screen presence during the early days of the pandemic, pointed to the Covid-19 revival as a stark reminder that it can often take two to three weeks for new groups to appear. of coronavirus. in the data

A senior administration official said the Trump campaign has been nervously monitoring the Oklahoma data to determine if the president’s rally on June 22, which the local fire department estimated to have attended 6,200 people, leads to an increase. apparent in the surrounding counties over the next two weeks.

“There is definitely an acknowledgment that an increase is occurring,” said one of the people familiar with Monday’s call to the governors, which this person said was “the first time” that administration officials have admitted that a reopening of Low speed is probably safer than fast. approach that Trump has embraced.

Still, Pence and other top officials offered a largely optimistic perspective on the coronavirus crisis, emphasizing that the nation is better prepared to handle new outbreaks and encouraging governors to focus specifically on reminding younger Americans of the risk they could pose. for older relatives if they become infected. Random on the call avoided criticizing the reopens for the spike in cases, and blamed people for not behaving responsibly as states loosened their restrictions on social distancing.

Members of the task force also did not commit to taking a firmer stance on wearing masks, in response to Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s request for Trump’s call to join his vice president in publicly urging Americans. to wear face masks.

However, the Trump administration is reviewing a new round of public health guidance on how states can mitigate coronavirus risks, with a focus on warnings about meetings and the need to cover their faces, three officials said. That guide could be published before July holiday weekend, when Trump is expected to be in South Dakota to participate in a fireworks show on Mount Rushmore.

Pence, meanwhile, has canceled campaign-related events in Florida and Arizona this week, two states where coronavirus cases are rising rapidly, but he is still expected to meet with both governors.

Before traveling to Texas on Sunday, where he spoke at Dallas First Baptist Church alongside pro-Trump pastor Robert Jeffress and then met with Abbott, Pence hosted the press conference last week where he and law enforcement officials task informed Americans about the resurgent virus. A person familiar with the matter said Pence made the decision to hold a public meeting, after weeks of behind-the-scenes working group meetings, after he and several health officials voiced concern that a gap in information could have contributed to the sharp increase in coronavirus cases. The task force had halted its almost daily briefings in early May when Trump and other top administration officials began pressuring states to reopen their economies.

But unlike those briefings, where top economic officials often made appearances to promote the lifting of bans on nonessential business operations and to praise the president’s leadership, Friday’s update focused almost exclusively on addressing the recent outbreaks. Covid-19 and encourage Americans to exercise restraint and sociality. Alienation While Pence portrayed optimistic progress on the tests and dismissed concerns about the president’s campaign schedule, he never intervened when health officials next to him gave sober assessments of the state of the pandemic.