Pence Struggles To Respond To WH’s Projection Of 100,000 COVID-19 Fatalities

Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the daily briefing on COVID-19 in the White House briefing room on March 31, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Vice President Mike Pence responded to the White House’s sobering projection of up to 240,000 fatalities from COVID-19 during an interview on CNN Wednesday.

Acknowledging President Trump’s warning that there are “tough days ahead” in light of the White House coronavirus task force’s projection of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities from the coronavirus, Pence said that he hopes that by “sometime in early June” the outbreak will be “largely behind us” and the country can be reopened.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer then pressed Pence on whether he’s presuming that 100,000 will be dead in the country from COVID-19.

“The time frame for the epidemic is a period of time where the number of losses becomes much lower by about Memorial Day weekend and June 1st,” Pence said. “But I never want to minimize the loss. I just want to make sure people know there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Pence went on to push for the White House’s social distancing guidelines before Blitzer asked him about why the task force has not issued a national stay-at-home order, citing Florida Gov. Ron Desantis’ initial refusal to issue one in his state. (DeSantis eventually issued a statewide stay-at-home order Wednesday afternoon.)

Dodging the question, Pence responded that he’s been “very inspired over the last 15 days” by people adhering to the White House’s social distancing guidelines.

“We’re going to continue to bring the President the best recommendations based on real-time data and science for what every state, what every community should be doing,” Pence said. “But at the present moment, we truly do believe that the strong actions taken in places like California and Washington and New York and New Jersey are appropriate.”

Blitzer also raised the question of a national stay-at-home order earlier in the interview, saying that it would’ve been good if the President “wouldn’t have been belittling the enormity of this crisis.”

Pence shot back by arguing that he doesn’t believe Trump “has ever belittled the threat of the coronavirus.”

After Blitzer mentioned that he asked his question based on Trump’s past remarks — which include saying that the coronavirus wasn’t as bad as the regular flu — Pence said that the President is “an optimistic person.”

“From the very beginning when the President suspended all travel from China and stood up the White House coronavirus task force in January, we have been hoping for the best but planning for the worst,” Pence said.

Watch Pence’s remarks below:

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