And Vice President Mike Pence told Americans that things were going well.
It was a picture at odds with reality.
Leaving out critical information, Pence delivered a more polished version of the upbeat, all-is-well dishonesty that was a hallmark of previous briefings by President Donald Trump, who did not attend the Friday session.
“Despite what you heard, we are in the middle of a public health disaster,” CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said on air after the briefing.
Pence described the Sun Belt situation as particular “outbreaks” occurring in “specific counties” and “specific communities” — declining to emphasize that, as expert Dr. Peter Hotez noted on CNN after the briefing, the places experiencing a “massive resurgence” include some of the most populous counties in the country.
“This is a tragedy, and what’s more, it’s not presented as a tragedy — it’s presented as, ‘We’re doing a pretty good job and now there are a couple of hotspots.’ These are not ‘hotspots’ — these are the largest metropolitan areas in the United States,” said Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas.
Perhaps Pence’s most egregious claim of the briefing was his suggestion that the country is finished with the painful part of the pandemic.
“As we see new cases rising — and we’re tracking them very carefully – there may be a tendency among the American people to think that we are back to that place that we were two months ago. That we’re in a time of great losses and great hardship on the American people. The reality is we’re in a much better place,” he said.
Though Pence was right that the current number of daily deaths is substantially lower than it was at its peak, the pandemic is still killing more than 500 Americans a day. The May unemployment rate was 13.3%.
In other words, the loss and the hardship continue.
CNN’s Maggie Fox contributed to this article.