Meadows: 'We're not going to control the pandemic'

White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump holds his last turkey pardon ceremony Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names Trump administration revives talk of action on birthright citizenship MORE on Sunday said the U.S. is "not going to control" the coronavirus pandemic as he defended the decision by the Trump administration and campaign to hold rallies and other events despite surging COVID-19 cases.

"So here’s what we have to do. We’re not going to control the pandemic. We are gonna control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations," Meadows told CNN's Jake TapperJacob (Jake) Paul TapperJake Tapper jokes he's retained Giuliani to look into fraud in 'Sexiest Man' election Brennan takes final shot at Trump: 'I leave his fate to our judicial system, his infamy to history, & his legacy to a trash heap' Biden transition adviser: Legal action for ascertainment of win 'isn't our preference' MORE during a contentious interview on "State of the Union."

“Why aren’t we going to get control of the pandemic?” Tapper asked.

“Because it is a contagious virus just like the flu,” Meadows responded, adding that the administration is “making efforts to contain it.”

Tapper repeatedly pressed Meadows on the lack of proper mask-wearing at the large rallies being held by President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race MORE’s reelection campaign as well as the decision to keep Vice President Pence on the campaign trail after two close aides tested positive for the coronavirus this weekend.

Meadows in response stressed developing coronavirus treatments and accused Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Biden says staff has spoken with Fauci: 'He's been very, very helpful' MORE of pushing for another lockdown.

Biden has said he would follow the advice of scientists on managing the pandemic but that he was not a fan of the idea of shutting down the country again.

Democrats immediately jumped on Meadows's remarks.

"The White House chief of staff just admitted out loud what has long been Trump’s strategy on the coronavirus: wave the white flag and surrender as Americans continue to suffer," said Democratic National Committee spokesperson Eduardo Silva.

"It doesn’t have to be this way. Many other countries have been able to successfully combat the coronavirus because they listened to scientists and came up with a strategy. But Trump refuses to lead, and as a result, America has just hit another record-high number of new cases, over 220,000 Americans have lost their lives, and millions are struggling to make ends meet," he said.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden echoed that sentiment, labeling Meadows’s comments as a “candid acknowledgement” of Trump’s strategy “to wave the white flag.”

“White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows stunningly admitted this morning that the administration has given up on even trying to control this pandemic, that they’ve given up on their basic duty to protect the American people,” the former vice president said. 

During a combative interview marked with several moments of crosstalk, Meadows also said Pence would be wearing a mask on the campaign trail. Pence was in close contact with his chief of staff, Marc Short, before Short's coronavirus diagnosis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends going into quarantine for two weeks after a possible exposure.

“Certainly, Americans should follow CDC guidelines,” said Meadows, adding, “We don’t mandate masks [at rallies] because ... we live in a free society, Jake.”

As Tapper continued to ask why CDC guidelines were not being followed on the campaign, Meadows shot back, saying, “You’re not wearing one right now Jake.”

“There’s literally nobody in this room. There is literally not one person in this studio,” said Tapper. Meadows retorted that Tapper likely didn’t wear a mask everywhere he went. Tapper acknowledged he did not wear a mask in the studio, his office and at home but said, “I wear a mask when I walk in the hallway at CNN.”

During the same interview, Meadows refused to specify how many people in Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceBiden-Harris ticket the first in US history to surpass 80 million votes Most Republicans in new poll say they'd vote for Trump in 2024 Press: Trump's biggest fear is — lock him up MORE’s office have tested positive for the coronavirus, saying, "We don’t give out that kind of information."