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

White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsJan. 6 panel subpoenas four ex-Trump aides Bannon, Meadows Graham found Trump election fraud arguments suitable for 'third grade': Woodward book Allies see rising prospect of Trump 2024 White House bid 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 TapperFrederica Wilson rails against Haitian deportation flights, calls treatment 'inhumane' Yarmuth and Clyburn suggest .5T package may be slimmed Fauci on FDA advisers' booster recommendations: 'I don't think they made a mistake' 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 TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe 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 BidenTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe House passes sweeping defense policy bill 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 PencePence says he hopes conservative majority on Supreme Court will restrict abortion access Federal judge to hear case of Proud Boy alleged Jan. 6 rioter seeking release from jail The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Dems attempt to tie government funding, Ida relief to debt limit MORE’s office have tested positive for the coronavirus, saying, "We don’t give out that kind of information."