A key member of the White House coronavirus task force on Tuesday rejected a suggestion by President Donald Trump that government physicians are lying about the severity of the virus to the American public.
Trump retweeted a comment from former game show host Chuck Woolery, who, without evidence, claimed that “everyone is lying,” including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and “our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust.”
But Brett Giroir, a four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, one of the several physicians who have been the face of the government’s response to the pandemic in the U.S., told NBC’s “Today” show, “We may occasionally make mistakes based on the information we have, but none of us lie.
“We are completely transparent with the American people,” he said. “None of us are 100% right. None of us are always right and we admit that.”
Trump, facing a tough re-election contest in November against former vice president Joe Biden, has for months downplayed the impact of the virus and most recently claimed that the impact of the new surge in the number of cases in the U.S. is 99% “totally harmless.” Trump has had little contact in recent weeks with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, and said that while he likes him personally, Fauci had "made a lot of mistakes.”
Giroir painted a different picture of the soaring number of new coronavirus cases, sometimes more than 60,000 daily in recent days. State governors that had reopened their economies have now ordered bars and other public places to close again in an effort to try to curb the spread of the virus.
“We are all very concerned about the outbreak,” Giroir said, with half of the new cases in four states, Florida, Texas, Arizona and California.
But he also said that the number of coronavirus patients in hospitals in the U.S. has dropped from a peak of 85,000 to 63,000 and that only 10% of them are on ventilators compared to the one-time 25% figure.
The death rate has slowed in the U.S., but Giroir said, “As hospitalizations go up, we would expect deaths to also go up.”
More than 136,000 Americans have already died from the virus and more than 3.3 million have been infected, both figures far and away the biggest national totals across the globe.
Still, Giroir said, “We are very confident we are going to beat this virus,” but not because it will simply disappear, as Trump said at the beginning of the outbreak in the U.S. in February.
Giroir said the virus would only be controlled in the U.S. if Americans wear face masks and socially distance themselves at least two meters from other people.
“It starts with you personally,” he said.
Giroir said government doctors “are very bullish on our opportunity for vaccines.” He speculated that one might be available by the end of 2020 or early next year.
Trump is pressuring officials throughout the country to reopen schools in the coming weeks for in-person instruction again after schools were mostly shut in March as the pandemic swept into the U.S.
Giroir said, “We know kids need to be back in school physically, but we have to get the virus under control.”
He said “there is no such thing as no danger” in reopening schools, but that “the risk to children is very, very small.”
Some of the largest school systems in the country have announced, over Trump’s objections, that they will reopen with virtual learning for students at home, or offer only two or three days a week of in-the-classroom instruction.