The White House Chief of Staff twice affirms that the administration has no plans to get the coronavirus pandemic under control as an outbreak grows in Vice President Mike Pence’s offices.
White House Chief Of Staff Mark Meadows stated on Sunday and Monday that the Trump administration won’t control the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, several cases have emerged inside the offices of Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
The developments raised further questions about how the administration is handling the third surge of coronavirus cases around the country and come on the heels of the record number of new cases set on Friday, Oct. 23.
Meadows’ remarks first came during a Sunday interview with CNN. “We are not going to control the pandemic,” he said. “We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas.” However, reports indicate that a vaccine will not be widely available until next year and finding effective medications to treat COVID-19 are yielding underwhelming results.
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Democratic leaders as well as some Republicans expressed concern with the White House’s position. That included Republican Majority Whip Sen. John Thune, who said, “We all have control, and we all have responsibility as leaders to set an example that consists of doing the right thing to stop the spread. That is encouraging wearing a mask and encouraging social distancing.”
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden asserted that the Trump administration was giving up on its fight against the coronavirus and “waving a white flag.”
“This wasn’t a slip by Meadows,” Biden said in a statement. “It was a candid acknowledgment 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.”
Meadows spoke—maskless—to reporters outside the White House on Monday as well, reiterating his comments and explaining that the administration is focused on a vaccine rather than preventing the spread of the disease. “I mean, when we look at this, we’re going to defeat the virus,” he said. “We’re not going to control it. We will try to contain it as best we can.”
Meadows comments come as an outbreak of the coronavirus has gripped Vice President Mike Pence’s office. Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend and joins three other members of his staff and an advisor to the vice president in fighting the virus.
Pence and second lady Karen Pence have both repeatedly tested negative. According to Newsweek, Pence is planning to continue his frequent travels and campaigning despite having been in close contact with Short.
Meadows has also been on the defensive in recent days after two sources close to the situation told New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman that Meadows wanted to prevent the news of the outbreak from reaching the media. The information about the vice president’s staffers came from an unidentified press aid, not the White House medical unit.
During his interview with CNN, Meadows did not refute the claims that he tried to keep the information from the public. Instead he claimed that private information should not be shared.
“Sharing personal information is not something that we should do, not something that we do actually unless it’s the vice president or the president or someone that’s very close to them where there’s people in harm’s way,” he said.
In his comments to reporters Meadows claimed that the administration is “very hopeful” that a viable vaccine is “just a few weeks away.”
Public health experts have not shared that same optimism and warn that, even if a vaccine is approved by the end of 2020, it won’t be widely accessible until the second half of 2021.