Vice President Mike Pence sought to cast blame on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and China Wednesday when asked why the US was so late in understanding the enormity of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I will be very candid with you and say that in mid-January the CDC was still assessing that the risk of the coronavirus to the American people was low. The very first case, which was someone who had been in China — in late January around the 20th day of January,” Pence told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
Pence continued: “The reality is that we could’ve been better off if China had been more forthcoming.”
“The reality is that China’s been more transparent with respect to the coronavirus than certainly they were for other infectious diseases over the last 15 years,” he said. “But what appears evident now is long before the world learned in December, China was dealing with this, maybe as much as a month earlier than that.”
A White House coronavirus task force spokesman denied that Pence was casting blame on the CDC’s response efforts.
“The CDC has been a major contributor to the Task Force and the whole-of-government response to the coronavirus outbreak. Vice President Pence has never cast blame on the CDC or any agency involved in the response efforts, and that did not change today,” coronavirus task force spokesperson Devin O’Malley said in a statement to CNN.
US health officials from the CDC took active steps starting in January to prepare for the outbreak as information trickled out of China. Members of Trump’s Cabinet also got involved and started briefing lawmakers. While public health officials and medical experts raised the alarm, Trump downplayed their concerns and injected controversial and unproven theories into the conversation.
In the course of two months, President Donald Trump has dramatically shifted his tone and level of optimism about the spread of novel coronavirus and its impact on the economy.
At the coronavirus briefing on February 26, for example, Trump said all of the following: “This is a flu. This is like a flu”; “Now, you treat this like a flu”; “It’s a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for. And we’ll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner.” Read more