WASHINGTON • US Vice-President Mike Pence and the nation’s top health official, Mr Alex Azar, have said reopenings in many states were not causing the sharp rises in coronavirus cases, but rather that increased testing was uncovering more and more infections.
But their position was disputed by other public health experts, who said broadened testing is revealing not only more total cases, but also a higher rate of positive cases.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said of the Trump administration: “They’re basically in denial about the problem. They don’t want to tell the American people the truth.”
Mr Cuomo said on NBC’s Meet The Press programme that New York, once a global epicentre for the virus, had reported five deaths on Sunday, the lowest number since the start of the pandemic.
But he was afraid that travellers from states with higher infection rates could reverse his state’s hard-won gains, he said.
On Fox News Sunday, Dr Thomas Frieden, former head of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said both the total number and the percentage of positive tests for the coronavirus had increased in several states. “There’s also no doubt that the virus has the upper hand,” he said.
The comments on Sunday exemplified the contradictory positions taken by the White House, which is pressing ahead full speed to reopen the economy and for President Donald Trump to resume in-person campaigning for the November election, and health experts, who are alarmed by the surges around the country.
Mr Pence, on the CBS programme Face The Nation, said he knew “there’s a temptation to associate the new cases in the Sun Belt with reopening”, but denied that to be true, adding that many states with increased cases had already reopened weeks ago.
He also downplayed the seriousness of the new cases by saying the virus had predominantly infected younger people, who are less likely to be hospitalised.
But Dr Frieden noted that it took time for patients who felt sick to be hospitalised, and added that infections in younger people were still a significant threat. “What starts in the young doesn’t stay in the young. Younger people have parents, uncles, nephews. We’re going to see increasing spread.”