But at White House events, political rallies, and on Twitter, Trump has weakened the resurgence of the virus in the past week, even though his health advisers are struggling to curb it. “The reason we show so many cases, compared to other countries that haven’t done nearly as well as we do, is that our TESTING is much bigger and better,” he wrote on Twitter on Thursday morning.
It’s a beloved claim by Trump that the White House’s own task force has long been abandoned – instead recognizing that alarming spikes in several states’ affairs are directly due to the spread of the community and the praise of decisions from governors to close shutters and reset social distance restrictions.
“What we are experiencing in the Southeast and Southwest, and frankly seeing it appear in some parts of the country, is a very serious public health situation,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said during a live stream interview with The Hill on Thursday. “We have to take individual responsibility in re-opening work, school and health care. If we don’t, we will see results like this.”
But Azar and the others are treading a delicate line, alternately urging Americans to exercise caution and follow public health guidelines defending the White House’s efforts to reopen the economy and bring people back to classrooms and offices.
That was perhaps most apparent on Wednesday, when members of the White House Task Force traveled to the Education Department for a news conference on school reopening.
Pressured on how the government intended to ensure the safety of children, Vice President Mike Pence dismissed the risk and told reporters that “children do not appear to be susceptible to serious coronavirus diseases.”
Just minutes later, Birx noted that there is still uncertainty about how children are affected.
“The lowest tested part are children under 10 years old,” said Birx. “So we set up other ways to get test results from them … and really try to figure this out.”
Birx and Fauci have used media gigs this week to reinforce the call to wear masks, blaming the resurgence of the pandemic in GOP-led states like Arizona and Texas for reopening too quickly and recklessly.
“Instead of driving 25 in a zone of 25 miles per hour, I got on the gas and started driving 65,” Birx said in a radio interview with Sirius XM on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Azar and CDC director Robert Redfield have also expressed concern about the wave of things, but have remained less willing to tackle criticism of Trump or attribute the wave of things to reopening efforts.
And as new cases reach record levels almost daily, bold assurances that the pandemic under control has been eclipsed by pleas for personal responsibility and putting the nation at risk of deterioration.
“We just need to tighten things up,” Fauci said in a Wall Street Journal podcast. “It is not insignificant what is going on. It has an impact. “
On Thursday, surgeons general Jerome Adams promoted a Twitter PSA advising social aloofness and the wearing of masks. “If we can’t stay a foot and a half away from others, I beg you, wear a face covering,” he said on the spot.
Such reports have not arrived at Trump, who outside public health experts cites a major impediment to organizing a coherent national response. And those in the government struggling with the pandemic resurgence have had little access to the White House megaphone, which Trump has used to address a drop in daily coronavirus deaths, despite warnings that the trend could reverse quickly.
For example, Fauci has appeared on only six TV shows since June 1, White House press chief Kayleigh McEnany said on Wednesday, and was absent from the task force briefing that day.
Instead, he relied on a series of podcasts and live streams to get his message out, including one Facebook Live conversation with his boss, NIH director Francis Collins, to warn that the US is “still knee-deep in the first wave” of the pandemic.
The CDC – traditionally the lead agency responding to public health emergencies – has been largely bypassed in public reports and only recently resumed bimonthly telephone briefings with reporters.
Meanwhile, the The White House coronavirus task force keeps briefings off-site, a departure from earlier in the pandemic when Trump often claims daily events from the White House briefing room.
“It is unusual for the president, the leader of the executive, to take a different view from the agency that provides the expertise and guidance,” said Marcus Plescia, the chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, of the CDC. “That’s a challenge.”
But the urgency of the moment can encourage health officials.
The FDA’s Hahn declined to defend Trump’s claim that nearly all cases of coronavirus were harmless, saying the task force’s data “shows this to be a serious problem.”
After Trump highlighted the country’s declining death rate in early Tuesday, Fauci warned during a livestream press conference with Democratic Sen that afternoon. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) That “it is a false story to find comfort in a lower mortality rate.”
At one point, Trump showed flashes of impatience with the experts this week Criticizing Fauci and talking that he “sort of didn’t listen to my experts” when he ended travel from China early. McEnany declined on Wednesday to say whether the president was still confident in his infectious disease expert.
Azar and Redfield have taken a more cautious approach and have carefully avoided any criticism of Trump, even though they offer a much grittier portrait of the coming weeks.
“What we do want to repeat as we reopen schools is to remember the importance of protecting the vulnerable,” said Redfield on Wednesday, supporting Trump’s call for full classrooms in the fall.
Outside experts say the apparent contradictions underscore how the White House’s political goals take precedence over the realities of public health.
“It’s best if the boss has your back and the public knows the position of the administration – and then let the scientists give the details,” said Benjamin.
Anne Schuchat, deputy director of the CDC, attempted to do so late last month, and in grim terms tackled the challenge the country is still facing.
“There was a lot of wishing across the country that, hey it’s summer – everything will be fine,” Schuchat, a longtime senior CDC official, said in an interview. “We’re not even getting over this.”
Eleven days later, the interview, a YouTube live stream at the Journal of the American Medical Association, had only received about 30,000 views.