Vice President Mike Pence hailed “remarkable progress” toward returning the nation to normalcy at the first public briefing of the coronavirus task force in nearly two months on Friday, a day the U.S. saw a new high for coronavirus cases recorded.
“We have made truly remarkable progress in moving our nation forward,” Pence told reporters at a briefing held at the Department of Health and Human Services. “We’ve all seen the encouraging news as we open up America again — more than 3 million jobs created in the last jobs report and retail sales are rolling.”
Pence said that “all 50 states are opening up safely and responsibly,” but “with cases rising, particularly over the past week throughout the South,” President Trump had asked him to brief the nation on the ongoing emergency.
In some of the states where cases are rising fastest, notably Texas and Florida, governors have slowed or reversed measures to reopen businesses and relax social distancing rules.
On Friday, the country reported a record 40,000 new cases of COVID-19. That milestone came nearly two months after the coronavirus task force stopped holding public briefings and Trump began describing the pandemic as “over” in America.
The death toll from the pandemic in the United States stands at around 125,000, the highest in the world by far.
The briefing included remarks from other members of the task force, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx. Fauci and Birx wore face masks that they removed when they were at the microphone. Pence did not.
“This moment in the coronavirus pandemic is different than what we saw two months ago,” Pence said. “We slowed the spread, we flattened the curve, we saved lives. In the midst of that, we exponentially scaled testing capacity.”
Pence cited Trump’s “leadership” and “direction” numerous times during his remarks, noting that the president had “made clear we want to open our economy up,” but acknowledged that 16 states were currently seeing “rising percentages” of COVID-19 cases.