The White House on Thursday placed tight controls on all coronavirus messaging issued by government health officials and scientists, directing them to coordinate all statements and public appearance with the office of Vice President Mike Pence, The New York Times reports.
President Trump on Wednesday announced that he was placing Pence in charge of the government’s response to the public health threat posed by the coronavirus.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, one of the country’s leading experts on viruses and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told “associates that the Trump White House had instructed him not to say anything else without clearance.”
“Officials insist the goal is not to control the content of what subject-matter experts and other officials are saying, but to make sure their efforts are being coordinated, after days of confusion with various administration officials showing up on television. And they say they are not focused on specific news releases rather with a streamlined effort around television appearances,” the newspaper reports.
“The new White House approach came as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged Thursday that a California woman with coronavirus was made to wait days before she was tested for the disease because of the agency’s restrictive criteria about who may get tested,” the Times added.
The move also comes days after White House officials claimed the virus had been “contained” while CDC officials warned that the virus was likely to spread throughout the country.
“We have contained this,” Kudlow told CNBC on Tuesday as financial markets tumbled amid coronavirus fears. “I won’t say airtight, but pretty close to airtight. We have done a good job in the United States.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Thursday that 33 people in California have tested positive for coronavirus and that officials are now monitoring more than 8,400 people for the virus.
“We have 33 confirmed positive tests for the coronavirus,” Newsom said during a press conference. “Five individuals have subsequently moved out of state.”
Critics of the vice president quickly pointed to Pence’s record on public health issues when he was governor of Indiana shortly after his appointment as the “coronavirus czar,” noting that he was blamed for “aggravating a severe AIDS outbreak among intravenous drug users when he opposed calls for a clean needle exchange program on the grounds it would encourage more drug use.”