Updated at 2:04 p.m. ET
The White House Coronavirus Task Force renewed calls for vigilance on Friday, acknowledging rising cases across Southern states and in parts of California.
The U.S. set a new daily record for cases on Thursday, but Vice President Pence insisted “this moment is different” than what the United States was grappling with two months ago, noting that the percentage of people requiring hospitalization from the virus was considerably lower than it was early on during the pandemic and the number of fatalities are declining.
“We’re in a much better place,” Pence said. But he urged young people to take precautions to avoid spreading the disease to more vulnerable people.
The group’s first briefing in weeks, held at the Department of Health and Human Services rather than at the White House, comes as states move ahead with reopening.
The nation’s leading health experts continue to grapple with how best to test for and contain the virus.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told The Washington Post on Friday that experts are seriously considering “pool testing” patients, which would test groups of people at once, rather than a single test for each individual.
This method would allow for testing centers to conserve resources by testing multiple people at once. If a test of these clusters returned positive, then individuals from the group would be tested individually.
Friday’s news conference caps off a month that included a relaunched travel schedule for the president as well as a rise in cases of COVID-19 — the disease caused by the coronavirus — in at least 20 states.
Public health experts have warned against large public gatherings such as the ones hosted recently by President Trump, which many attended without wearing masks. But Pence on Friday insisted Americans have the right to choose to exercise their free speech and said they should keep in mind official guidelines and local case rates.
Pence has also recently restarted his travel schedule and plans to meet next week with governors and officials in Texas and Arizona to talk about the spikes in confirmed cases of the coronavirus in those states. Texas announced a “pause” to its reopening this week, with additional closures implemented on Friday.
“While you see in the news over the past week or so we have rising cases and outbreaks in several Southern states, I want to assure you that our task force and our entire administration is working continuously with leaders in those states to respond,” Pence said Thursday.
Widespread protests against police brutality, sparked by the recent killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, have further increased concerns of the virus spreading.
To that point, the World Health Organization has said it “fully supports equality and the global movement against racism,” and encouraged protesters to take all safety precautions to help limit the spread of the virus at demonstrations.