Media Outlets Examine Mixed Messages On COVID-19 From White House, U.S. Health Officials; VP Pence Faces Questions On Outbreak In Closed-Door Senate Briefing

AP: A disconnect between Trump and health officials on virus
“…President Donald Trump’s breezy talk Tuesday of a virus that’s ‘got the world aflutter’ contrasts with the gravity and caution conveyed by federal scientists as Americans look to the government not just for reassurance, but for realism. Public-health leaders are walking a fine line in laying out the facts without angering a president who speaks in rosier tones than they do about a contagion that’s infected more than 100 people from coast to coast. No, the scientists say, a vaccine is not just around the corner, although Trump has repeatedly suggested it is. Yes, they say, the U.S. appears to be more prepared than some other countries afflicted or threatened by the virus, but it’s too early to know how the plans will hold up. No, a ‘cure’ is not in the offing for an infectious disease for which there is no treatment…” (Superville et al., 3/4).

The Hill: Pence pressed over coronavirus response in testy Senate briefing
“Senators pressed Vice President Pence in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday over the administration’s response to coronavirus, questioning the official charged with leading the administration’s response over a lack of testing for the virus. Democratic senators in particular asked sharp questions of Pence and administration health officials during a visit to their lunch meeting. Some Republican senators, in addition, said they shared growing concerns among Democrats and experts that there are not enough tests being made available, hindering the ability of officials to know how widespread the virus is within the United States…” (Sullivan, 3/4).

New York Times: Trump Makes Room for Experts, but Still Takes a Leading Role on Coronavirus
“…In confronting the first major health crisis of his presidency, Mr. Trump has made himself the primary source of information to the public with mixed results. Appearing before cameras sometimes multiple times a day to talk about the coronavirus, he has offered a consistently rosier assessment of the situation than health experts and has put forth unproven or even false assertions. … The White House has bristled at the criticism, seeing it as insincere point scoring. Seeking to push back, Mr. Pence’s office has begun compiling praise for the administration’s handling of the crisis and sending it out to supporters and news organizations…” (Baker et al., 3/3).

Washington Post: Trump coronavirus effort undermined by mixed messages and falsehoods
“…Officials are working this week to book [NIAID Director Anthony] Fauci, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, and other coronavirus task force members on television programs with a broader audience than the administration’s preferred Fox News Channel. For instance, experts have appeared or, aides hope, will soon appear on shows like ABC’s ‘Good Morning America,’ NBC’s ‘Today,’ and ‘The Dr. Oz Show’ in an effort to reassure worried parents, while Seema Verma, director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is doing outreach to groups such as AARP. Pence and other members of the task force, including Ambassador Deborah Birx, a physician and global AIDS expert, also started holding daily news conferences in the White House press briefing room this week as part of an effort to keep the public apprised on the fast-moving virus…” (Rucker et al., 3/3).

Additional coverage of the U.S. government’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as other policy-related issues, is available from CNBC, Forbes, The Hill (2) (3), MedPage Today, POLITICO (2), USA TODAY, and Washington Post.