U.S. health experts continue to assail Vice President Mike Pence for repeating the claims the Trump administration has brought the COVID-19 pandemic under control, and the large increase in new cases in 36 states is simply the result of more testing.
In an interview with CBS News’ “Face The Nation” on Sunday, Pence again claimed reopenings in many states aren’t causing the sharp jump in COVID-19 cases. Instead, he again blamed the spike on increased testing that’s uncovering more and more infections. He said any American that wants a test can get a test.
“So we really believe that what is happening here is a combination of increased testing — we’re able to test a great deal more Americans than we were able to several months ago,” Pence said.
Pence made these claims on the same day the world hit and exceeded 10 million COVID-19 cases and more than 501,000 deaths. The United States accounted for 2.6 million cases and 128,000 deaths to lead the world in these categories, according to Worldometer.
The outsize extent of the pandemic in the U.S. can be recognized when one realizes the U.S. still accounts for 25% of all confirmed cases and deaths despite having only 4% of the world’s population.
U.S. medical experts belie the administration’s continuing allegations. Public health experts say positivity rates, hospitalization rates, deaths and other vital indicators give a clearer picture of the extent and prevalence of the disease and how fast it’s spreading.
“The positivity rate is a very important marker for how a state’s testing is going, and for how the state is doing,” said Dr. Thomas Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Center for Health Security.
Positivity rates that keep increasing strongly indicate the pandemic is gaining strength in a locality. This rise also means the rapidly increasing new case counts aren’t merely the result of performing more tests, as Pence and President Donald Trump insist.
Only 12 states reported lower average positivity rates last week compared to the week before, according to Johns Hopkins University.
As for Pence’s claims about the wide availability of testing, the chaotic situation in Arizona — one of the four new epicenters of the coronavirus resurgence — proves this isn’t so. Local health authorities report many people having a hard time getting tested due to a lack of test kits and long lines of people anxious to be tested immediately.
Pence on June 25 caused a furor among the medical community by claiming states were “opening up safely and responsibly.” Pence made this allegation despite the U.S. setting a single-day record of 39,327 new infections on that same day and Florida reporting a record-setting 9,000 new cases.
“We slowed the spread, we flattened the curve, we saved lives,” he said.