During the first White House coronavirus task force briefing in two months, Vice President Mike Pence described an alternate reality to what is really happening in American cities across the country with respect to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a couple of health experts.
“We’re seeing a massive resurgence in our metropolitan areas across the southwestern part of the United States — here in Houston, Dallas, Phoenix and in Los Angeles,” Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN's Brianna Keilar shortly after the briefing wrapped up.
“This is a tragedy, and what's more, it's not presented as a tragedy — it's presented as, ‘We're doing a pretty good job and now there are a couple of hotspots.’ These are not ‘hotspots’ — these are the largest metropolitan areas in the United States,” he said.
More on this: This first briefing since the end of April comes as cases are going up in more than half the states, with infections in some large states close to being out of control and filling hospital intensive care units.
“The vice president said the good news is there's no increase in positivity rate. That's absolutely false. We're seeing a steep increase in positivity rate and we will soon see an increase in deaths as well,” said Hotez, noting that deaths will surely follow the big resurgence in the number of cases. “They still clung to this discredited idea that a lot of the increase is due to increase in testing.”
CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta also said the vice president presented a picture that does not at all match the facts of what is happening with coronavirus infections in the country.
“Despite what you heard, we are in the middle of a public health disaster. I know that people are going to hear different things. There's a cognitive dissonance out there, but let me just start with that,” Gupta told Keilar, stressing that this public health disaster wasn’t inevitable.
“One of the first things that was said is all 50 states are opening safely and responsibly. That's simply not true. I don't think there's a single state that actually followed the opening criteria that the task force themselves actually laid out,” said Gupta. “They say that we have greatly expanded testing. We're still probably at a 10% of the testing that we should be doing at this point in this pandemic. They say we've had 45 days to stop the spread. Well, Brianna as you just mentioned, we haven't stopped the spread.”
Gupta said that the country had the highest number of daily infections since this pandemic began in the last 24 hours. “This is a problem. We can spin it in all sorts of different ways. But the reality is that not only are things bad, they’re as bad as they've been right now with regard to daily new infections.”
Hotez said the briefing missed the opportunity to present some solutions. “The terrible part for me was there were no ideas presented. They have no idea what to do,” he said. “There is no concrete federal plan for helping the metro areas; there was not a single suggestion made,” he added.