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HHS secretary: Avoiding large gatherings 'a difficult message for all Western democracies'

HHS secretary: Avoiding large gatherings 'a difficult message for all Western democracies'
© Bonnie Cash

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar is defending the federal government’s progress on the coronavirus pandemic, saying on Sunday “all Western democracies” are having trouble avoiding large gatherings.

“I guess what I’m trying to figure out is how are the American people supposed to take your advice if the president of the United States won’t take your advice?” host Chuck ToddCharles (Chuck) David ToddHHS secretary: Avoiding large gatherings 'a difficult message for all Western democracies' Trump bashes NBC ahead of town hall, adds it's 'a free hour on television' Chuck Todd indirectly refers to former colleague Olbermann as 'somebody from the very far left' of the media world MORE asked Azar on "Meet the Press," noting that President TrumpDonald John TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE on Saturday held a large event in Wisconsin, a state HHS has classified as in the “red zone” for community spread.

“We’re seeing an increase in cases in states whether red or blue or open or closed, we’re seeing an explosion of cases in Europe,” Azar responded. “The ticket is in our hands, it’s about those basic public health mitigation steps… we have it in our individual control.”

“Why is that message so difficult for the president?” Todd asked.

"I think it is a difficult message for all Western democracies,” Azar said. “We’re seeing that in Europe, people are tired … we’re so close. Hang in there with us, we are so close.”

Azar went on to claim “we are weeks away” from monoclonal antibodies and effective vaccines for the virus.

“What message are we sending, what example are you setting as a top public health official participating in indoor events like that?” Todd asked, in reference to an indoor event in Fort Myers, Florida.

Azar responded that masks had been distributed at the event in question and seating had been arranged in keeping with social distancing practices.

“We encourage people to wear face coverings and I wish everybody there would have worn face coverings and maintained social distancing,” he added.