As Virus Surges, Pence Ghosts White House Task Force

Mike Pence

Vice President Mike Pence

Photo by Gage Skidmore/ CC BY-SA 2.0

Coronavirus cases have reached a frightening new peak, but Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House coronavirus task force, has reportedly been missing in any meaningful capacity from leadership for weeks.

American deaths now sit at more than 241,000, according to the New York Times. More than 1,000 deaths a day were reported over the last seven days, including 1,400 deaths on Tuesday alone.

But a new CNN report notes that Pence has dropped the ball as cases mounted and election chaos has reigned.

According to the outlet, Pence previously led a task force conference call with state governors once a week, but Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has helmed the task force calls on Oct. 13 and Oct. 30. Pence hasn't led one since Sept. 29.

Given the urgency of the coronavirus crisis, Pence's public schedule has been shockingly clear for the past week. Pence did reportedly hold a task force meeting Monday as President-elect Joe Biden announced a plan for his own task force. But the task force has not shared anything from the meeting with the press, and no concrete plan to contain the virus seems on the horizon.

Pence tweeted photos Monday of the meeting, falsely claiming credit for the newly released Pfizer vaccine.

"The @WhiteHouse Coronavirus Task Force met today to discuss BIG news out of @pfizer this morning. Under President @realDonaldTrump, we are working at Warp Speed to deliver a Safe & Effective vaccine," he wrote on Twitter. "This President is DELIVERING for the American People."

Pfizer representatives, however, have said that their company has not participated in Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration initiative meant to expedite a vaccine, and they said they did not accept federal funding for vaccine research or development.

Not much has been on Pence's schedule in past days, besides speaking with Senate Republicans privately on Tuesday, making a brief Veterans Day appearance at Arlington National Cemetery alongside Donald Trump on Wednesday, and penciling in a lunch with Trump for Thursday.

While he reportedly skipped task force calls during a pandemic peak, the incumbent's second-in-command has somehow made time to challenge the election's results.

Pence has been signing his name to fundraising emails for Trump's battle to contest the election's outcome under the guise of false claims of voter fraud.

"Vice President Pence has been in constant contact with our team and extremely involved in the campaign's legal efforts, doing everything we and the president have asked of him as well as leading efforts to raise money for the legal funds," Trump campaign spokesperson Ali Pardo told the Times.

Far from implementing a plan to combat the growing threat of the virus, Pence's chief goal from last week was to leave town after the election for a Florida vacation on Sanibel Island, off the coast of Fort Myers. The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that Pence has since canceled the trip.

Experts have expressed concern about the lack of leadership and guidance by Trump officials even as the pandemic crests and more Americans die each day.

The United States has "a vacuum of leadership," Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean of Emory University School of Medicine, told CNN Thursday.

And CNN's own medical analyst Seema Yasmin, once a disease detective for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the outlet that the waxing death toll was "unsustainable," comparing the loss of American life to multiple plane crashes happening daily.

"We need what we have needed from the beginning: a robust pandemic response. I am so concerned we are not going to see that ... at least until Inauguration Day," Yasmin told CNN. "In the meantime, things will continue to worsen."

President-elect Joe Biden will be taking a different approach on the virus. So far, he has unequivocally promoted mask-wearing and this week announced his own new task force to combat the pandemic.

His top adviser has suggested the idea of a several-week lockdown with lost wages paid to workers.

But the continuing stonewalling of Biden's transition team by the Trump administration could result in more lost lives, as Biden's team is still denied access to much-needed documents and briefings on the coronavirus by federal agencies.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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