Trump Administration Officials Discuss Coronavirus on Sunday Talk Shows

This article was originally published on this site

Vice President Mike Pence and the nation’s top health official, Alex M. Azar II, continued to assert on Sunday that reopenings in many states were not causing the sharp rises in coronavirus cases, but rather that increased testing was uncovering more and more infections.

But their position was disputed by other public health experts, who said that broadened testing is revealing not only more total cases, but also a higher rate of positive cases. And Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, said of the Trump administration: “They’re basically in denial about the problem. They don’t want to tell the American people the truth.”

Mr. Cuomo said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program that New York, once a global epicenter, had reported five deaths on Sunday, the lowest number since the start of the pandemic. But he said that he was afraid that travelers from states with higher infection rates could reverse his state’s hard-won gains.

On “Fox News Sunday,” Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that both the total number and the percentage of positive tests for the coronavirus had increased in several states, saying, “There’s also no doubt that the virus has the upper hand.” He predicted that the explosive spread in some states would continue to worsen over the coming weeks.

While much of the Sunday talk shows were more focused on exploring reports that Russia had offered, and paid, bounties to Taliban fighters for killing U.S. soldiers, the country’s surging pandemic remained a major topic. The comments by Mr. Pence, Mr. Azar and Dr. Frieden exemplified the contradictory positions taken by the White House, which is pressing full speed to reopen the economy and for Mr. Trump to resume in-person campaigning for the fall election, and health experts, who are alarmed by the surges around the country.

Mr. Pence, on the CBS program “Face the Nation,” said, “I know there’s a temptation to associate the new cases in the Sunbelt with reopening,” but denied that to be true, adding that many states with increased cases had already reopened weeks ago.

When the show’s host, John Dickerson, cited the concerns of health experts that states had opened too early, Mr. Pence replied, “I beg to differ.”

The vice president also downplayed the seriousness of the increase in new cases by saying that the virus had predominantly infected younger people, who are less likely to be hospitalized.

But Dr. Frieden noted that it took time for patients who felt sick to be hospitalized and potentially die and said that infections in younger people were still a significant threat.

“What starts in the young doesn’t stay in the young,” he said. “Younger people have parents, uncles, nephews. We’re going to see increasing spread.”

Even as residents in some states have been turned away from testing sites that have reached capacity, Mr. Pence falsely said that anyone who wanted to be tested for the coronavirus could be tested.

“Because of the public-private partnership that President Trump initiated, we are literally able to test anyone in the country that would want a test who comes forward,” Mr. Pence said.

President Trump first made this claim in March, and top health experts have repeatedly contradicted it. Testing sites in several states, including Texas, Florida and Arizona, have been overrun.

Mr. Azar, the secretary of health and human services, also sought to reassure the public that there would be enough protective gear and hospital capacity for patients, including ventilators. Accounts to the contrary are emerging in new hot spots like Houston.

  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated June 24, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


He disputed reports last week by members of the American Medical Association that physicians and hospitals, particularly those in Latino communities, still did not have sufficient personal protective equipment. “With all respect to the A.M.A., they don’t have the information we have,” Mr. Azar said. “We are literally on the phone with hospitals every day.”

Reopening in various cities and states will work, he said, if people use face coverings in settings where they cannot practice social distancing. He blamed “inappropriate individual behavior” for spreading the virus, while defending President Trump and Vice President Pence for not wearing masks in public, noting that they are tested every day.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in an appearance on the ABC program “This Week,” said that she supported a federal mandate that all Americans must wear masks. “Definitely long overdue for that,” said Ms. Pelosi, a Democrat from California. She urged Mr. Trump to start wearing one in public, saying: “Real men wear masks. Be an example to the country.”

Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington expressed frustration at the president’s unwillingness to wear masks or to do more to encourage his supporters to wear them. “Instead of tweeting the other day about the importance of masks, he tweeted about monuments,” he said on “Face the Nation.” “We need a president who will care more about living Americans and less about dead confederates.”

Mr. Azar, asked why the administration is seeking to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which could take insurance away from 24 million Americans, said the administration would ensure that health care for virus patients would be free.

“If you are uninsured, it will be covered by us,” Mr. Azar said. But he did not disclose details of any replacement plan that would guarantee protections for people with pre-existing conditions so that they would not face higher costs for insurance.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Republican of Arkansas, said that a quarantine requirement in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut for travelers from states with growing infections was “understandable,” but argued that travel restrictions could stand in the way of economic recovery.

“We had the same order in Arkansas, that travelers from New York had to quarantine. We’ve lifted all of those now because this virus has become like a fog going across the United States, sometimes slowly, sometimes rapidly,” he said, as his own state’s reopening was paused amid a rise in cases.

Melina Delkic, Rebecca Halleck, Michael Shear and Karen Zraick contributed reporting.