Coronavirus task force addresses spike in rate of coronavirus cases in southern states

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WASHINGTON D.C. — The White House Coronavirus Task Force held its first news conference in two months on Friday as cases in the country – particularly in the south – continue to rise.

“Our focus today is very much on the advent of a rising series of new cases across the American South,” Vice President Mike Pence said. “Now’s the time for everybody to continue to do their part.”

Pence led the briefing that focused on 16 states with rising COVID-19 numbers. The ratio of positive cases to number of tests administered has increased in those states, including Texas, where it topped 10%.

Pence acknowledged the danger of the coronavirus, but he also said that the Trump administration’s action has saved lives from the onset of the pandemic.

“The possibility existed… that we could lose between 1.5 million and 2.2 million Americans,” Pence said. “Inarguably (sic), as we see where we are today as a nation because of what the American people have done, because of the incredible work of our health care workers, because of a partnership with governors in every state… we flattened the curve. We saved lives.”

He also discussed current statistics and actions taken by the federal government. He acknowledged that some states are indeed seeing a rise in percentage of cases.

As cases rise, some states are slowing their steps to reopen. Texas is closing bars and scaling back restaurant capacity to 50% and Florida is banning alcohol consumption at bars.

White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci pressed states to stay vigilant.

“You have an individual responsibility to yourself but you (also) have a societal responsibility,” Fauci said.

Pence said it’s up to state and local authorities to decide whether to require social distancing and wearing a mask. But he noted that Americans should be able to make their own choices, including attending Trump rallies without masks.

“I want to remind you again that the freedom of speech and the right to peacefully assemble is enshrined in the constitution of the United States,” Pence said.

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said he continues to monitor the cases in his state of North Carolina where a state-wide mask mandate went into effect Friday.

“If we want the economy to open up, distance, wear a facial covering, and get the economy back on track,” Tillis said.

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