June 29, 2020 -- In its first press conference in nearly two months, members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force acknowledged Friday that COVID-19 cases are rising again across the South, but stressed that the country was in a much better position to handle the increase than it was just a few months ago.
Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the task force, said the U.S. was in better shape to weather a new uptick in cases thanks to new therapeutics like the drugs remdesivir and dexamethasone, expanded hospital capacity, increased testing, and greater domestic production of personal protective equipment.
Members of the task force also issued a warning to younger adults, who make up the majority of the new infections.
“A risk for you is not just isolated to you. If you get infected, you are innocently or inadvertently responsible for propagating the pandemic,” said Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Fauci said that while the outbreak may seem to be blooming only in certain cities or counties, everyone needs to continue to be vigilant because “We are all interconnected. We can’t get away from that.”
Fauci stressed that while younger adults who are infected may not wind up in the hospital or dying at the same rates as the elderly, they can spread the infection to others whose bodies aren’t capable of fighting it off.
“That may be somebody’s grandmother, grandfather, uncle who’s on chemotherapy or aunt who’s on radiation or a child who has leukemia,” Fauci said.
Fauci, Deborah Birx, MD, coronavirus response coordinator, Robert Redfield, MD, director of the CDC, and HHS Secretary Alex Azar, each wore masks to the briefing. Pence did not.
“We say to every American, particularly those in counties and states that are being impacted with rising cases, now is the time for everybody to continue to do their part,” Pence said.
“None of us would want to bring the disease back to our parents or grandparents, moms or dads,” he said.
He recommended Americans practice good hygiene, wash their hands, avoid touching their faces, disinfect frequently, stay home if they feel sick and to check temperatures and isolate. He did not mention wearing a mask in public.
When asked by a reporter if he had a message about masks, Pence declined to answer, saying instead that people should follow the guidance from their state and local health officials.