Doctors on the White House Coronavirus Task Force stressed to Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic situation is dire and only getting worse, two senior administration officials familiar with the meeting told CBS News. The doctors fear the U.S. could see an average of 1,500 deaths a day next week, and up to 2,000 a day by Christmas without any changes to mitigation measures.
The doctors on the task force are also concerned the predicted spikes will completely overrun hospitals and force the U.S. back to the hectic early phase of the pandemic. To prevent this from happening, the doctors are recommending that bars close and restaurants stop offering indoor dining. However, they believe schools can stay open because data shows the transmission rates are low.
The health officials on the task force are urging either Pence or President Trump to stress to the public from the briefing room podium the importance of taking mitigation measures to slow the spread of the virus. They feel such action would add weight to the message that everyone must take the ongoing pandemic seriously and make it clear the virus is out of control. As of publication, Pence is not scheduled to speak at a coronavirus briefing.
Mr. Trump has previously questioned the use of masks and, during his presidential reelection campaign, held large outdoor rallies where social distancing and mask wearing were not enforced.
Recently, Mr. Trump has stepped away from his public role in curbing the pandemic, focusing instead on the election, which the president continues to falsely insist he won. Mr. Trump has sent numerous tweets since November 3 claiming with no evidence that the preliminary election results are illegitimate due to widespread voter fraud. On Tuesday evening on Twitter, Mr. Trump announced he had fired Christopher Krebs, a top cybersecurity official, because he issued a statement declaring the election was secure.
Notably, the president’s controversial adviser Scott Atlas was not physically present at Tuesday’s meeting. It’s unclear if Atlas joined by phone, as the White House has not responded to a CBS News inquiry regarding his attendance. Atlas did not offer any comments if he was on the line. Atlas is a medical doctor but has no expertise in infectious diseases.
Pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer in the last two weeks have offered promising news on the vaccine front. But public health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci have warned that the country is in for a long, dark winter, when people will spend more time inside, where the risk of spreading and contracting COVID-19 is much higher.