White House Blames Rise In US Coronavirus Cases On More Testing, Experts Dispute This

image

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - Vice President Mike Pence and the nation's top health official, Alex M. Azar II, said on Sunday (June 28) that reopenings in many states were not causing the sharp rises in coronavirus cases, but rather that increased testing was uncovering more and more infections.

But their position was disputed by other public health experts, who said that broadened testing is revealing not only more total cases, but also a higher rate of positive cases. And Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York said of the Trump administration: "They're basically in denial about the problem. They don't want to tell the American people the truth."

Cuomo said on NBC's "Meet the Press" program that New York, once a global epicentre, had reported five deaths on Sunday, the lowest number since the start of the pandemic. But he said that he was afraid that travellers from states with higher infection rates could reverse his state's hard-won gains.

On "Fox News Sunday", Dr Thomas Frieden, the former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that both the total number and the percentage of positive tests for the coronavirus had increased in several states, saying, "There's also no doubt that the virus has the upper hand."

He predicted that the explosive spread in some states would continue to worsen over the coming weeks.

While much of the Sunday talk shows were more focused on exploring reports that Russia had offered, and paid, bounties to Taliban fighters for killing US soldiers, the country's surging pandemic remained a major topic. The comments by Pence, Azar and Frieden exemplified the contradictory positions taken by the White House, which is pressing full speed to reopen the economy and for President Donald Trump to resume in-person campaigning for the fall election, and health experts, who are alarmed by the surges around the country.

Pence, on the CBS program "Face the Nation," said, "I know there's a temptation to associate the new cases in the Sun Belt with reopening," but denied that to be true, adding that many states with increased cases had already reopened weeks ago.

When the show's host, John Dickerson, cited the concerns of health experts that states had opened too early, Pence replied, "I beg to differ."

The vice president also downplayed the seriousness of the increase in new cases by saying that the virus had predominantly infected younger people, who are less likely to be hospitalised.

But Frieden noted that it took time for patients who felt sick to be hospitalised and potentially die and said that infections in younger people were still a significant threat.

"What starts in the young doesn't stay in the young," he said. "Younger people have parents, uncles, nephews. We're going to see increasing spread."