WASHINGTON - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday mostly blamed young people for the sharp increase in recent days of the number of confirmed cases in the country, saying they are ignoring precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Pence, in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” show, said it is “inarguable” that increased testing in the U.S., with 500,000 per a day, has led to confirmation of more people with coronavirus infections. But he said “younger Americans have been congregating in ways that may have disregarded the guidance that we gave on the federal level for all the phases of reopening businesses.”
The number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. has risen sharply in recent days, particularly in a trio of states across southern tier of the U.S.: Florida, Texas and Arizona, which are separated by hundreds of kilometers. In total, the U.S. reported more than 40,000 new cases Friday, a single-day record for reports of the pandemic in the U.S. over the last six months.
Pence has canceled political trips this coming week to both Florida and Arizona out of caution because of the increased number of cases in the two states.
Pence said the U.S. is better equipped medically to handle the hospitalization of more coronavirus patients than it was early in the year.
But he said President Donald Trump and he support measures taken by governors in Florida and Texas to again close bars to prevent people from gathering there, shoulder to shoulder, while ignoring frequent admonitions from health experts to wear masks and to socially distance from each other by at least two meters.
“It's clear testing isn't the only reason that we're seeing more cases, but it's a significant reason,” while adding, “It's clear across the Sunbelt that there's something happening, particularly among younger Americans.” Pence said.
But he said the Trump administration does not think it is necessary to impose national mandatory directives to wear a face mask.
Trump has rarely worn a mask, saying he does not think it is for him.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told CNN that Trump's unique circumstances are a reason why he doesn't wear a mask.
He said Trump is regularly tested for coronavirus and that as a leader of the free world is in "very different circumstances than the rest of us."
Azar urged Americans to take precautions for "public health."
Pence has more frequently put on a mask, again on Sunday as he attended a church service in Dallas, Texas. He rejected the suggestion that Trump could help slow the spread of coronavirus by setting an example nationally by wearing a mask.
“We believe people should wear masks wherever social distancing is not possible, wherever it's indicated by either state or local authorities,” Pence said.
But he added, “We believe that every state has a unique situation. One of the elements of the genius of America is the principle of federalism, of state and local control...we want to defer to governors, defer to local officials. And people should listen to them."
In all, the U.S. has now recorded more than 2.5 million coronavirus cases and more than 125,000 deaths, both far and away the biggest national figures across the world. Health officials are predicting that tens of thousands more Americans will die in the coming months.