Vice President Mike Pence was chosen by President Trump to lead his Coronavirus Task Force. This week, the administration offered governors a plan for how to begin lifting restrictions implemented due to the pandemic. Judy Woodruff talks to Pence about persistently inadequate COVID-19 testing and his message to front-line health care workers forced to share and reuse their protective gear.
JUDY WOODRUFF, PBS NEWSHOUR: We have been looking ahead, but I also would say it’s important to look for a moment at how we got here. The United States today has more coronavirus cases than the major countries in Europe combined, more deaths than anywhere. In January, as you know, Mr. Vice President, there were pervasive warnings from the intelligence community here, from top administration officials. There were mistakes made, no question about it, in China. There were delays at the World Health Organization. But the president did stop travel to the U.S. on January 30. But, for days and even weeks after that, he said, the U.S. is in a good place. He said – he assured Americans everything is OK. How many lives do you believe were lost as a result of the delay by this administration? VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Judy, I will tell you that we’re – we’re going to get to the bottom of what happened with the World Health Organization and why the world wasn’t informed by China about what was happening on the ground in Wuhan with the coronavirus. There’ll be time for that in the days ahead. And the president has made it clear that we’re going to hold the World Health Organization and – and China accountable for that. But I have to tell you, having – having been asked by the president to lead the White House Coronavirus Task Force in late February, that the actions that our president took in January, where he suspended all travel from China, the first time any American president had ever done that, bought us an invaluable amount of time to stand up the national response that has us here today, at a time when our health care system has not been overwhelmed. And while – while you – you cite statistics from Europe, the reality is, when you look at the European Union as a whole, which is roughly the size of the United States, thanks to the commitment of our health care workers, thanks to the response of the American people, while we grieve the loss of more than 33,000 Americans today, the truth is, the mortality rate in the United States today is – is far less than half of that in Europe. It’s a tribute to our – our system. It’s a tribute to the American response. And, frankly, it’s a tribute to the fact that President Trump suspended all travel from China, initiated efforts to get our CDC into China by mid-February. And so, by the time we – we learned of the first community spread in late February in the United States, we were able to surge the resources and – and raise up the kind of countermeasures that have us in the place that we are today.