In a subtle turn of phrase Monday, Vice President Mike Pence seemed to acknowledge a fact that public health experts have been arguing for weeks as the Trump administration has minimized the risk of coronavirus in the United States.
“As we find more cases, it will mean our health officials are doing their job in large part,” Pence said at a White House press conference at which members of the White House coronavirus task force spoke.
The line follows intense pressure from the public health community about testing for coronavirus in the United States: Rather than use the World Health Organization’s coronavirus test, the Trump administration opted to make its own, but that was delayed by faulty results. Tests were short in supply, leading to far fewer people being tested for coronavirus than could have been.
Meanwhile, the President and others repeatedly broadcast — perhaps in an attempt to calm plunging stock markets — that the number of Americans with coronavirus remained low. “We’re going very substantially down, not up,” Trump said last week, clashing with experts.
It’s what Jeremy Konyndyk, of the Center for Global Development, called the “self-licking ice cream cone” — the idea that “we’re not seeing community spread yet so we don’t need to aggressively test for it.”
But now, with multiple American deaths and the CDC finally sending thousands of tests across the country (and allowing for localities to do their own testing), Pence acknowledged the reality that more Americans have coronavirus than the government initially suggested.