White House holds first coronavirus briefing in two months

Grant Boone
June 27, 2020

US Vice President Mike Pence hailed Friday the nation's "truly remarkable progress" against coronavirus, although daily cases hit an all-time high of 40,000 a day earlier.

Pence described the Sun Belt situation as particularly "epidemic" in "specific counties" and "specific communities" - declining to emphasize that, as expert Dr. Peter Hotez said on CNN after the briefing, the posts experiencing a "massive resurgence" include some of the country's most populous counties.

Pence also stated that "all 50 states" are "opening up in a safe and responsible manner", despite the fact that some 30 states experienced increases in the rate of new cases, and although the states reopened without having met the safety milestones recommended by the administration.

"As we see the new cases rising, and we're tracking them very carefully, there may be a tendency among the American people to think that we are back to that place that we were two months ago, that we're in a time of great losses and great hardship on the American people".

Trump's unwillingness to use his bully pulpit to convince more Americans to help slow the spread of the virus comes at a precarious time for the country. "We did flatten the curve", he added. He also replayed the worst-case scenario, showing a slide that indicated that without intervention, 1.5 million to 2.2 million Americans could have died.

As to whether the public should wear masks in public areas, Pence said it is up to state and local governments to issue guidance and orders on face masks.

"The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses", Abbott said. On Friday, Texas ordered the closure of bars and re-imposed limits on in-restaurant dining. Increases in reported deaths typically lag a couple weeks behind reports of new cases. The day's tally of over 4,700 hospitalizations was also a record.

Deborah Birx, a key scientist on the White House coronavirus task force, said officials sat up and took notice of the spike in Texas when the percent of people testing positive rose alongside the increasing number of overall tests.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention he said Thursday that the actual number of US cases is probably 10 times higher than the number of cases found by the trial.

There was no presidential appearance and no White House backdrop Friday when the USA government's coronavirus task force briefed the public for the first time since April - in keeping with an administration effort to show it is paying attention to the latest spike in cases but is not on a wartime footing that should keep the country from reopening the economy. He said these states haven't made any urgent requests to the federal government but he administration is ready to surge supplies and personnel, if called upon. Authorities in Connecticut, New Jersey and NY are demanding travelers from states where cases are spiking to self quarantine for two weeks.

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The top US infectious disease specialist called on young people to accept "societal responsibility" amid a surge of positive tests for coronavirus.

Deaths from the coronavirus in the USA are down to around 600 per day, compared with about 2,200 in mid-April.

There are a number of possible reasons for the continuing drops in deaths even as cases rise, experts say.

The virus is blamed for 124,000 deaths in the USA and 2.4 million confirmed infections nationwide, by Johns Hopkins' count. And, as Gupta noted, true success with tests should mean that the number of cases drops over time since infected people are found and isolated.

This is a moment when Trump's power to reach the country could be helpful in reversing the virus' unsafe new trend.

NBC's Geoff Bennett reports for Weekend TODAY. Pray for our health care workers on the front lines. "We continue to see evidence that our aggressive strategy is working and working at a very high level", Trump said during the briefing.

He discussed the return of jobs that came with reopening.

"We want to open our economy up". The same month, he toured a mask factory without wearing a mask. During a meeting with the Youngstown Police Department in OH, he said thousands of officers are risking their lives every day to keep Americans safe. And other countries with big populations like Indonesia, Pakistan and Mexico grappled with large numbers of infections and strained health care systems. "It has been one of the least successful responses in the entire world".

Material from the Associated Press and Reuters was used in this story.

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