Mike Pence declares coronavirus response a “success” as cases surge in more than 20 states

"Our approach has been a success," he claims while dismissing fears over rising cases in 21 states as "overblown"

By Igor Derysh

Senior News Editor

Published June 17, 2020 11:32AM (EDT)

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Vice President Mike Pence declared the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic a "success" even as new infections rose in more than 20 states.

Pence, who has echoed President Donald Trump's false claims attempting to downplay the rising cases in many states, slammed the media in a Wall Street Journal op-ed for raising alarm over the new infections rather than praising the administration's response.

"The media has tried to scare the American people every step of the way, and these grim predictions of a second wave are no different. The truth is, whatever the media says, our whole-of-America approach has been a success," Pence wrote after overseeing the largest outbreak of any country in the world. "We've slowed the spread, we've cared for the most vulnerable, we've saved lives and we've created a solid foundation for whatever challenges we may face in the future. That's a cause for celebration — not the media's fear mongering."

Pence argued that the "panic is overblown" after noting that the average number of new daily cases had dropped to 20,000 from 30,000 in April and deaths had declined to 750 a day from 2,500 "a few weeks ago."

While Pence cited the national numbers, he neglected to mention that 21 states have seen the average number of new daily infections grow, according to The Washington Post.

Much of Pence's op-ed was devoted toward praising Trump's widely-panned response.

"The truth is that we've made great progress over the past four months, and it's a testament to the leadership of President Trump," he wrote, claiming that it was the president who "rallied the American people to embrace social-distancing guidelines" despite eschewing them at his own events.

Pence's celebration came as the number of deaths in the U.S. approached 120,000, leading Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler to predict the op-ed may go down as the vice president's "'Mission Accomplished' moment," a reference to former President George W. Bush declaring premature victory in Iraq.

"Pence is right about one thing: there is no 'second wave,'" Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University, tweeted. "We're still in the first wave, and that wave hasn't crested yet."

"The erasure of over 100,000 American deaths by our federal government is sickening," Dr. Colleen Farrell, a New York physician who writes about her experience on the frontlines in treating coronavirus patients, added. "This is some 1984 stuff."

The op-ed came after Pence urged governors on a call to parrot Trump's false claims seeking to blame the rise in infections on increased testing. "In at least 14 states, positive cases have outstripped the average number of tests that have been administered," The New York Times reported.

Pence also backed Trump's attempts to downplay the risk of infection to attendees ahead of their joint rally this weekend in Tulsa, Okla.

"In a very real sense they've flattened the curve," Pence claimed Monday. "The number of cases in Oklahoma has declined precipitously."

But according to Oklahoma's Department of Health, the state has begun to experience "an increase in the number of cases and hospitalizations due to COVID-19" and the "threat of COVID still exists and we anticipate it to grow."

Tulsa Health Department director Bruce Dart told Tulsa World on Sunday that the city was seeing a "significant increase in our case trends."

"I wish we could postpone this to a time when the virus isn't as large a concern as it is today," Dart said.

"While we have flattened the curve in some places, the fight is far from over," CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta tweeted. "And the way to win is not by declaring a premature victory."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said that Pence's celebration after the country eclipsed 115,000 deaths showed that the president and vice president have "learned nothing from the devastating consequences of their mismanagement."

"You're just going to close your eyes, plug your ears, & pat yourself on the back for the public health catastrophe under your watch?" she asked. "This is as pathetic as it is reckless."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's senior news editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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Aggregate Coronavirus Covid-19 Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Mike Pence Politics Republicans