As Cases Surge, Pence Insists the Country Has Made “Truly Remarkable Progress”

The vice president repeatedly offered hopeful messages that failed to track with reality.

ZUMA

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As coronavirus cases soar across the country, Vice President Mike Pence on Friday attempted to take a victory lap. 

“We slowed the spread, we flattened the curve, we saved lives,” Pence said during the first coronavirus briefing the White House has held in nearly two months. Pence also praised the “truly remarkable progress” in reopening the country.

But the gulf between that rosy characterization and the current reality facing the country could hardly be starker: More than half of the country is seeing the rapid spread of new cases, some to record highs, as well as increased rates of hospitalizations and deaths. In their most drastic moves since reopening yet, Republican governors in Texas and Florida on Friday abruptly halted additional reopening steps from moving forward as their infection rates shatter previous highs.

While Pence did note the alarming trend during the briefing, where he was joined by other members of the White House’s coronavirus task force, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, he insisted that the country was in a “much better place” than it was two months ago. He also repeated Trump’s misguided claim that expanded testing was solely to blame for the new surges—as if counting the cases caused them—even as health officials warn that removing social distancing measures has been the primary source fueling the current surge in cases. 

Birx effectively refuted that talking point on Friday with a graph that showed positive rates in Texas had declined in May even as testing increased. “It was in the last two and a half weeks that we saw this inflection of rising test positivity along with rising testing,” Birx said. 

But the chances of the President and his White House acolytes abandoning the claim, even as some administration aides refute it, remain slim as Trump appears to be undeterred in blaming testing for making him look bad.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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