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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/29/20

Massive Case of Denial: COVID Surges in US, Tops 10M Globally, as Pence Touts "Remarkable Progress"

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As coronavirus cases top 10 million worldwide and spikes are being reported in 36 states, Vice President Mike Pence has touted "truly remarkable progress" on the pandemic. "This has just been a massive case of denial, of idiotic government policy, of the lack of any strategic planning, any really specific strategic goal," Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Laurie Garrett says of the response to the pandemic. "We're in very, very dire straits right now."

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AMY GOODMAN: Coronavirus cases have now topped 10 million worldwide, with more than a half-million deaths. Brazil, second only to the United States in the number of cases and deaths, registered its highest number of infections in a week, as protests this weekend denounced the right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro's handling of the crisis.

On Friday, the United States reported the highest number of new cases in a single day since the start of the pandemic, as cases continue to surge. Confirmed infections have now topped 2.6 million in the United States, with over 126,000 reported deaths a quarter of the deaths and infections in the world, though the U.S. has only under 5% of the world population; this all amidst worsening outbreaks in Florida, Texas and Arizona. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar warned the U.S. needs to act immediately.

HHS SECRETARY ALEX AZAR: The window is closing. We have to act. And people, as individuals, have to act responsibly. We need to social distance. We need to wear our face coverings if we're in settings where we can't social distance, particularly in these hot zones.

AMY GOODMAN: Despite this one warning, this dire warning, Secretary Azar defended President Trump in the same interview for his refusal to wear a mask, since Trump is regularly tested. During an appearance with Texas Governor Greg Abbott in Dallas, Vice President Mike Pence changed course from previous remarks and said, quote, "Wearing a mask is a good idea." During the same visit, he attended a Dallas church Sunday, where he wore a mask as he sat in the front row as a choir of over a hundred people performed unmasked. Choruses are known as superspreading events. Over 2,000 people attended the event, many also not wearing a mask. On Friday, Pence touted the nation's, quote, "truly remarkable progress," even as the U.S. reported a record 40,000 new cases in the previous 24 hours. He also commented on new data showing an increase in young people becoming infected.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Inarguably, as we see where we are today as a nation, because of what the American people have done, because of the incredible work of our healthcare workers, because of a partnership with governors in every state, we did just that. We slowed the spread. We flattened the curve. We saved lives....

And we hear this in Florida, we hear this in Texas and elsewhere, is that roughly half of the new cases are Americans under the age of 35, which is, at a certain level, very encouraging news, as the experts tell us, because, as we know so far, in this pandemic, that younger Americans are less susceptible to serious outcomes of the coronavirus. And the fact that we are finding more younger Americans who have contracted the coronavirus is a good thing.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we're joined by Laurie Garrett, Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer, former senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, author of a number of books, including Ebola: Story of an Outbreak and The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance, as well as Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health.

Laurie, welcome back to Democracy Now! There's so much to unpack here. You have Vice President Pence speaking at the first public briefing of the coronavirus task force with the scientists, Birx and Fauci, on Friday, after two months not saying people should wear masks, talking about the "remarkable progress" of the United States, and then, on Sunday, after enormous criticism, finally wearing a mask in Dallas. Just talk about the state we are in. The globe has topped 10 million cases, a quarter of them are in the United States as well as a half a million deaths and again, a quarter of them are in the United States, when we have just over 4% of the population.

LAURIE GARRETT: Amy, I was thinking about that I think the first time I was on this show talking about COVID-19, it didn't have a name yet. We just said "the coronavirus" or "Wuhan virus" at the time. And it was February, and I told you that best-case scenario was we would get out of this in 36 months. Well, it's been what? five months since then, and I do think we have at least three years ahead of us.

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