WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The White House coronavirus task force held a press briefing Thursday afternoon, just one day after the U.S. recorded more than 250,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University and amid a rise in new cases and positivity rates across the country.
Vice President Mike Pence spoke first, stating that President Donald Trump requested the task force give the briefing on what they are doing to combat the recent rise in cases and positivity rates across the country.
“America has never been more prepared to combat this virus than we are today,” Pence said in his opening statement.
Dr. Deborah Birx spoke next, giving an update on the increase in COVID-19 cases and test positivity.
“It’s really a moment that we want to call on every American to increase their vigilance,” Dr. Birx said. “I wanted to show you the difference in slopes between the spring surge, the summer surge and the fall surge, so the American people know this is more cases more rapidly than what we had seen before, but to also make it clear, like before, that we do know what to do, and we’re asking every American to do those things today.”
Dr. Birx said the rapid increase in new cases cannot be explained by the increase in testing.
‘Even with the ever-increasing number of tests performed, you can see the increase in test positivity to around 10%, In some areas of the country it is much higher than that, and it illustrates the ongoing community spread in your counties, in your small and larges metros, and in your rural areas,” Birx said. “The next slide really shows the country as a whole and why we’re asking….every American to do, to wear a mask, to physically distance, to continue your hand hygiene, but really, in this moment of bring people together, to really limit interactions indoors to immediate family when we see this level of community spread.”
Birx pointed to asymptomatic cases as a cause for increased community spread.
“People are spreading the virus because they don’t know they are infected with the virus,” Birx said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, gave an update on the status of vaccine development.
“The process of the speed did not compromise safety,” Dr. Fauci said. “I really want to settle that concern that people have about that.”
“Now, what does that mean for us?” Fauci continued. “It means we actually need to double down on the public health measures as we’re waiting for that help to come, which will be soon. We’ll be getting vaccine doses into people at high priority at the end of December. We’re not talking about shutting down the country, we’re not talking about locking down.”
General Gustave Perna spoke on the distribution plans for the coronavirus vaccine.
“We need to do it in the most timely manner possible because it is all about lives. We already have over a 100 million kits of the Pfizer and Moderna,” Perna said.
“We have a system in place to begin shipping in 24 hours and 24 hours after that injecting that vaccine into Americans,” Pence said. “We’ll focus on those most vulnerable and health care providers. It will be state-managed and locally executed. President Trump has been very clear that we don’t support a national lock down.”
Earlier Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it recommends Americans do not travel during the Thanksgiving holiday next week to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as cases of the virus spike around the country.
The travel recommendation is a “strong recommendation,” not a requirement, CDC official Henry Walke said on a call with reporters Thursday. The government agency said it was making the recommendation after many states across the country have experienced a surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.
“We’re alarmed with the exponential increase in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths,” Walke said.
The CDC advised against gathering with anyone who hasn’t lived in the same household for at least fourteen days, the incubation period for the coronavirus. Officials said they were also posting recommendations on their website on how to stay safe during the holidays for those Americans that do choose to travel.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are typically the busiest times of year for domestic travel as Americans gather with friends and family around the country. Shares in airlines and hotel companies have plummeted since the beginning of the outbreak as public officials have advised against unnecessary travel.