Trump administration dismisses COVID-19 spikes as nothing to worry about

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As cases increase in multiple states, the Trump administration is claiming things are at 'the low-water mark.'

The Trump administration is trying to convince the nation that the COVID-19 crisis is slowing down, even as cases spike in at least 20 states.

Vice President Mike Pence, who also serves as head of Donald Trump's coronavirus task force, reportedly urged governors on a Monday conference call to repeat a misleading argument that the reason for the higher numbers of cases was expanded coronavirus testing.

According to the New York Times, Pence told governors to "continue to explain to your citizens the magnitude of the increase in testing" as the reason for the "intermittent" spikes and said they should "encourage people with the news that we're safely reopening the country."

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As he did in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, Trump has also been downplaying the threat.

On Monday, he told reporters that increased case numbers were the "downside" of having so much testing.

"If you don't test, you don't have any cases. If we stopped testing right now, we'd have very few cases, if any," he claimed.

After acknowledging that nearly 400 new deaths the previous day from COVID-19 was "a lot," he added, "Our number is really the low-water mark, and it's getting better, and it'll — it'll end up being gone."

On Sunday, Trump's top economic adviser Larry Kudlow told CNN, "Although the case rate has increased a bit, we’re not talking about a second round here." He added that "fatality rates continue to be very low and the country has got to open."

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also argued last week that state spikes must be viewed in a "nuanced way."

"Like, for instance, Texas is one of the places where they're saying we're seeing a steady slope, not a huge rise," she said at a press briefing. "But part of it's in — due to the fact that they're testing in long-term care facilities and in prisons. And the more testing you do, the more cases you identify."

According to New York Times data, in 14 or more states, the rate of positive tests is actually growing faster than the rate of daily tests.

As states have eased social distancing requirements, 14 states and Puerto Rico have reported their highest-ever weekly averages of new cases since the start of June. Many of the cases have come from smaller counties in states with relatively few restrictions.

South Carolina, which reduced social distancing requirements in mid-May, saw a record number of new daily cases last Thursday.

"We began to see the first increasing trends several days after the Memorial Day weekend," the state epidemiologist told NPR. "We saw lots of activity with large gatherings, no social distancing, very rare use of masks. So these findings are not unexpected."

Dr. Ashish Jha, director of Harvard University's Global Health Institute, told Columbia College Today this month that the lack of federal guidance remained a huge obstacle to safer reopening.

"There is no federal response. The kinds of things we've been doing are all happening at the state level, with very little guidance — and often very contradictory guidance — coming from the federal level," he said. "What you ideally want is a kind of national blueprint, and then individual states being able to tailor that national doctrine or national guidelines with the help of local CDC officials."

"The federal government just doesn't seem interested or willing to do the hard work," he added.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.