Trump administration officials and Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill are downplaying the rise and risks associated with the coronavirus as they push to reopen the economy and the nation’s schools ahead of the November elections.
Cases have risen over the previous 14 days in most states, according to a New York Times coronavirus database. The country recorded its sixth single-day record in 10 days with almost 60,000 cases on Thursday. Hot spots include Arizona, Texas, Florida, South Carolina and California, which keep shattering records as well.
But top Trump administration officials maintain this rise in cases isn’t as concerning because fatalities have largely decreased in recent weeks. GOP lawmakers in states like Texas and Florida have also sought to dismiss the problem by citing death statistics in their states. That stance reinforces a weeks-old Republican pattern of repeated denial in the face of increasingly alarming data on coronavirus infections, test positivity, hospitalizations and deaths.
“Because of what our health care workers have done ― because of the innovation and the medicines that we’ve been able to make available ― literally, we have seen fatalities decline by 90%,” Vice President Mike Pence, the leader of the White House coronavirus task force, said at an event this week.
Pence last month wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed headlined “There Isn’t a Coronavirus ‘Second Wave,’” just as cases began spiking nationwide.
Nationally, the daily death toll is still below its April peak, but fatalities are again on the rise, reaching the highest levels since early June.
Public health experts have consistently said that deaths are a lagging indicator of infections, and that the coronavirus remains a serious problem.
“It’s a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and a member of the task force, warned this week.