At the end of February, weeks before Donald Trump declared the coronavirus a national emergency, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) slammed the impeached president for putting Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the administration’s coronavirus response. She characterized the decision as “utterly irresponsible,” citing the former governor of Indiana’s incredulity toward science. Now, more than three months later, Americans are finding out just how accurate those words are.
On Monday The New York Times revealed that the administration’s second in command urged governors to essentially tell their constituents that the coronavirus is no longer a threat. “Continue to explain to your citizens the magnitude of the increase in testing,” Pence reportedly gave as a plausible response for governors to use when asked about the increased number of new outbreaks. “Encourage people with the news that we’re safely reopening the country,” he added.
Pence’s suggestion comes as 22 states have reported an increase in COVID-19 cases and nine—Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina and Texas—have reported new single-day highs or have set a record for seven-day new coronavirus case averages, according to the Washington Post. A coronavirus model trusted and used by the White House, also projects that there will be more than 200,000 coronavirus-related deaths by the time fall rolls around. And Anthony Fauci, M.D., the country’s leading expert on infectious disease, has been vocal about the fact that the country is still experiencing the first wave of cases and that a resurgence could come if Americans don’t properly adhere to safety measures.
All things considered, the data has never stopped the White House from touting alternative facts that stand in complete opposition to actual data. On Tuesday, Pence wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal claiming, “There isn’t a coronavirus ‘second wave.’ ” In fact, he says that the media is attempting to overblow the situation and that, in Trump’s own words, “everything is under control.”
“Thanks to the leadership of President Trump and the courage and compassion of the American people,” Pence says, “our public health system is far stronger than it was four months ago, and we are winning the fight against the invisible enemy.” He added that despite what the media may report, “our whole-of-America approach has been a success.”
But that’s hard to believe for a number of reasons. Namely, because the country has lost more than 100,000 people and counting to the virus. But also, the White House is continuing to push a theory that if no testing was being done, there would be little to no new coronavirus cases. That is simply not true.
What seems more likely is that the administration wants people to believe that everything is safe so that states will continue to reopen, the economy will return to some semblance of normal, and Trump won’t look completely reckless for having a campaign rally, alleged to have a projected attendance of more than 200,000 people, as cases in Oklahoma continue to spike.
The motivation behind the White House’s dissemination of misleading information is unclear. What is clear is that in this moment of uncertainty, Americans should take Pence’s words with a grain of salt and continue to make their health a priority.