Pence: ‘We'll Have Thousands of More Cases Across This County’

Susan Jones | March 12, 2020 | 9:14am EDT
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Vice President Mike Pence (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Vice President Mike Pence (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

( - Vice President Mike Pence made the rounds of the morning news shows Thursday, telling Americans that testing soon will be widely available -- and many more cases will be diagnosed in the United States.

"Well, look, one of the things that we know about the coronavirus from our experts studying global data is it's two to three times more contagious as  a respiratory illness. And so we'll have thousands of more cases across this country," Pence told "Fox & Friends."

The vice president stressed that the "vast majority" of Americans who contract the illness will have flu-like symptoms and will fully recover:

"I talked to a man named Clay Bentley in Rome, Georgia yesterday on the phone. He is doing well. He is recovering well. And his personal strength and his faith have sustained him through this, and it was inspiring to talk to him. So, we don't want, as the president has conveyed, we don't want Americans to be overly concerned. We want everybody to practice good common sense.

"But in those communities where we have community spread, we're going to continue to give very aggressive recommendations, as we have in California and Washington and New York to do exactly what you are saying with regard to social distancing. And we'll respect the decisions of any business, any sports enterprise that decides to cancel events to put the health of the country first."

Asked if Americans can expect more quarantines, such as the one imposed by state officials in New Rochelle, N.Y., Pence didn't exactly rule it out.

Host Brian Kilmeade asked him, "Just to clarify, you are not going to do what they did in Wuhan -- you are not going to say, 'Manhattan, you are locked down. Sacramento, you are locked down.' You are not going to do that as of now, even though they did that in China?"

"Well, what I promise you, Brian, is that we're going to work very closely with state and local officials to give them the very best counsel from CDC and our health care experts. I talked to the mayor of New Rochelle yesterday. I know they have established a zone in their community for extra counter-measures against coronavirus. I talked to the governor of New York, Washington State and California yesterday about new, specific guidelines for their communities." Pence then changed the subject.


Asked about the apparent testing logjam, Pence said, "We are working every single day to clear out any red tape to make tests more and more available.

"Right now, every state lab in America can conduct testing. Any one of your viewers that may have a concern can call their doctor. Their doctor can contact the state lab and determine how to get a test processed," Pence said.

But it takes time to get the results.

"I'm also proud of the fact that university hospitals around the country are conducting tests. The University of Washington is doing a significant number of testing right now for their citizens that have been impacted by the coronavirus."

Pence said Quest and LabCorp, the largest commercial laboratories in the country, "are working very closely with our administration. We're clearing the red tape out of the way. That's going to be the way that in the days ahead we are going to have a broad-based testing available all across the country."

A short time later, Pence told CNN, it's "going to take a few more days" to get tests out to the "broader public."

"The commercial labs in this country (Quest and LabCorp), we're confident, are going to be able to produce and distribute on a wide range across the country in the days ahead, not the weeks ahead, but days ahead, all across this country, coronavirus tests," he told CNN.

But it hasn't happened yet, and the slowness to roll out widely available testing is a main point of criticism directed at the administration.

As of Thursday morning, there were 1,274 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, and 38 people, mostly the elderly and infirm, have died.

President Trump on Wednesday night announced the suspension of all European travel to the United States for 30 days. "It's about preventing the additional flow of the infection from Europe into our country," Pence said.

"But make no mistake about it. We are also at the same time focusing on mitigation strategies in communities where we have community spread. We're encouraging best practices for every American, especially for our most vulnerable population.

"And make no mistake about it, our goal as the coronavirus spreads in this country, in the vast majority who would contract it will have flu-like symptoms and recover.

"Our goal, nonetheless, is to hold down that overall number as much as possible, and we will do that with the continuing cooperation of American families, schools, businesses, and states, and that's the vision president trump has. All of us working together will get through this."


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