Meadows doubles down on White House pandemic response: ‘We’re not going to control it’
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Monday rejected the notion that the Trump administration has given up on fighting the spread of the coronavirus, but then doubled down on his controversial remarks that the U.S. will not control the virus.
“We’re going to defeat the virus; we’re not going to control it,” Meadows told reporters outside the White House. “We will try to contain it as best we can, but … we need to make sure that we have therapeutics and vaccines.”
Meadows was seeking to defend comments he made Sunday, when he told CNN “we’re not going to control the pandemic,” an extraordinary admission that the administration has essentially given up on fighting the spread of the coronavirus.
He also told CNN’s Jake Tapper that, “We are gonna control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations.”
The comment from Meadows runs counter to the rosy campaign trail message from President Trump that the country is “rounding the turn” on the pandemic, that the media is overreacting, and that there will soon be vaccines and therapeutics widely available.
Meanwhile, coronavirus infections in the U.S. have hit a new high, far earlier than some experts predicted, leading to warnings that the coming winter could be extremely harrowing.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden seized on the remarks by Meadows, labeling them a “candid acknowledgement” of Trump’s strategy “to wave the white flag.”
“This wasn’t a slip by Meadows, it was a candid acknowledgment of what President Trump’s strategy has clearly been from the beginning of this crisis: to wave the white flag of defeat and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would simply go away,” Biden said Sunday. “It hasn’t, and it won’t.”
On Monday, Meadows said “the full context” of his remarks was about making sure people have access to the same kind of experimental therapies that Trump had when he was treated for COVID-19 earlier this month.
But in reality, the drug companies working on coronavirus vaccines are still conducting clinical trials. Even if a vaccine is deemed safe and effective before the end of the year, it will not be able to be produced and widely distributed until mid-2021 at the earliest.
It is also not clear if a vaccine will be a cure for COVID-19 and prevent transmission, or will merely lessen the symptoms if someone becomes infected.
Meadows, who is dealing with a fresh COVID-19 outbreak among close aides and staff to Vice President Pence, also appeared dismissive of Biden’s insistence on wearing a mask and strictly adhering to physical distancing guidelines on the campaign trail.
“Well, the only person waving a white flag along with his white mask is Joe Biden,” Meadows said Monday.