Vice President Mike Pence painted a rosy â€• and misleading â€• portrait of the U.S. governmentâ€™s response to the coronavirus and the current state of the crisis in an op-ed published Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal.
In one section, Pence, whom President Donald Trump appointed in late February to lead the White Houseâ€™s coronavirus task force, praised all 50 states for beginning to reopen in a â€œsafe and responsible manner.â€
But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the lead infectious disease expert on the task force, suggested that isnâ€™t the case during an interview with NPR earlier Tuesday.
â€œThere certainly were states that did not strictly follow the guidelines that we put out about opening America again,â€ Fauci said. â€œThere were rather well-delineated gateway criteria followed by phase 1, phase 2 and phase 3.â€
He added: â€œClearly there were states that â€• left to their own decision about that â€• went ahead and opened to a varying degree … certainly before they got to the benchmarks that they needed to get.â€
The contradicting statements serve as an example of the distance between the propaganda pushed by the White House and some of the warnings raised by Fauci and other public health experts.
In his nearly 800-word piece, Pence accused the press of â€œfear mongeringâ€ in its coverage of the pandemic and dubbed the nationâ€™s response to the virus â€œa success.â€Â
â€œWeâ€™ve slowed the spread, weâ€™ve cared for the most vulnerable, weâ€™ve saved lives, and weâ€™ve created a solid foundation for whatever challenges we may face in the future,â€ the vice president wrote. â€œThatâ€™s a cause for celebration, not the mediaâ€™s fear mongering.â€
In fact, the U.S. has had more documented COVID-19 cases and deaths than any country in the world, despite having less than 5% of the global population. More than 2.1 million people have tested positive for the virus nationwide and over 116,000 have died.
Trump initially downplayed the threat of the virus as scientists warned that it would surely spread across the country with devastating consequences.
During a campaign rally in late February, two days after a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official sounded the alarm about the virusâ€™s potential impact, the president accused the press of being in â€œhysteria mode.â€
â€œSo far we have lost nobody to coronavirus in the United States. Nobody,â€ Trump said. â€œIt doesnâ€™t mean we wonâ€™t. But think of it … weâ€™ve lost nobody, and you wonder, the press is in hysteria mode.â€
Pence on Tuesday accused the media of trying to â€œscareâ€ the American people about a potential second wave of the virus.Â
â€œSuch panic is overblown,â€ he wrote. â€œThanks to the leadership of President Trump and the courage and compassion of the American people, our public health system is far stronger than it was four months ago, and we are winning the fight against the invisible enemy.â€
At least 21 states saw an increase in their average daily new coronavirus cases last week compared to the week before, reported The Washington Post. On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) urged people to stay home as the state recorded its highest number of new COVID-19 hospitalizations yet.Â
While Fauci has said a so-called second wave of the virus isnâ€™t â€œinevitableâ€ if guidelines are followed, heâ€™s also acknowledged that the crisis is far from over.
â€œWeâ€™re seeing several states, as they try to reopen and get back to normal, starting to see early indications [that] infections are higher than previously,â€ Fauci told The Telegraph last week.Â
The virus â€œcould go on for a couple of cycles, coming back and forth,â€ he added. â€œI would hope to get to some degree of real normality within a year or so. But I donâ€™t think itâ€™s this winter or fall, weâ€™ll be seeing it for a bit more.â€
Social distancing and wearing masks are key to curbing the contagion, Fauci and so many other scientists and medical professionals have stated over and over again.
Pence, who has been photographed many times doing neither in situations that call for both, lauded the president for having â€œrallied the American people to embrace social-distancing guidelines.â€
Trump, of course, often undermines his own guidelines on social distancing. Heâ€™s been seen numerous times in public without a mask surrounded by other administration officials who arenâ€™t wearing masks. He voiced support for anti-lockdown protesters who stood side-by-side without masks to demand their states reopen despite not meeting federal guidelines for doing so.
Perhaps Trumpâ€™s most brazen disregard for his own administrationâ€™s guidelines is the rally his campaign has scheduled for Saturday at a 19,000-seat arena in Tulsa, Oklahoma â€• an event one health expert called â€œextremely dangerous.â€
A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus
Calling all HuffPost superfans!
Sign up for membership to become a founding member and help shape HuffPost’s next chapter