This weekend has been a busy one for coronavirus. On Friday, the United States recorded over 83,000 new coronavirus cases, marking the highest number of single-day cases recorded since the pandemic began. Then, The New York Times reported that four of Vice President Mike Pence's aides had tested positive for the coronavirus, including his top staffer. But it seems like this news isn't really prompting the Trump administration to do anything. In fact, over the weekend, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows admitted that the administration won't be able to control the pandemic.
During an interview on CNN's State of the Union, host Jake Tapper asked Meadows about Pence's intentions to continue campaigning despite his aides testing positive for coronavirus and the overall rise in cases. The line of questions resulted in a bit of a heated exchange between the two men.
"We're not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics, and other mitigations," Meadows said. When Tapper pressed Meadows about why he would say that, he responded, "Because it is a contagious virus, just like the flu."
Meadows's choice to invoke the flu echoes how President Trump has long compared the two illnesses to downplay the danger of coronavirus. But in March, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, confronted that framing, stating, "I mean, people always say, 'Well, the flu does this, the flu does that.' The flu has a mortality rate of 0.1%. This has a mortality rate of 10 times that."
Just as comparing coronavirus to the flu doesn't sit right with experts, it also didn't wow Tapper, who again asked why the administration wouldn't make efforts to contain coronavirus. When Meadows asserted that they were, Tapper asked, "By running all over the country not wearing a mask?"
Meadows has repeatedly spoken to reporters without a mask, including immediately after visiting the White House after Trump was diagnosed with the virus. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Trump has pushed an anti-mask agenda, resulting in him barely ever being seen in one. After Trump's stint in the hospital for his own case of coronavirus, he removed his mask for photos upon returning to the White House despite being in close proximity to his staff.
Later on in the interview, Meadows did try to backtrack on his comment regarding the administration's inability to control the pandemic. He said, "When we look at the number of cases increasing, what we have to do is make sure we fight it with therapeutics and vaccines, take proper mitigation factors in terms of social distancing and masks when we can. And when we look at this, we're going to defeat it, because we're Americans."
Relying on "we're Americans" is not a real health strategy. Coronavirus doesn't care about patriotism. Before things even got bad in the United States, the Trump administration had months to prepare for the pandemic and failed to do so. Now, almost a year later, over 225,000 people in the U.S. have died from the coronavirus. In June, a leaked document from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that out of 10 countries worst-hit by the coronavirus, the U.S. was faring the worst.
Meadows's interview caught the attention of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who said that Meadows's statement was no slip but rather "a candid acknowledgement of what President Trump's strategy has clearly been from the beginning of this crisis: to wave the white flag of defeat and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would simply go away. It hasn't, and it won't."