Looking at the Mike Pence coronavirus op-ed, four weeks later

Four weeks ago today, Pence wrote an op-ed bragging about progress on the coronavirus. In hindsight, he shouldn't have put his credibility on the line.
Image: Mike Pence
Vice President Mike Pence speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, on April 23, 2020.Alex Brandon / AP file
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By Steve Benen

Four weeks ago today, amidst widespread concerns about coronavirus data in the U.S. that didn't appear to be improving, Vice President Mike Pence wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. The message was simple: thanks to Donald Trump, "we are winning the fight against the invisible enemy."

Two weeks ago, we reviewed several of Pence's key claims, noting the many ways in which the areas he boasted about had taken a turn for the worse. Two weeks later, however, it's disheartening to see conditions grow even more serious.

"While talk of an increase in cases dominates cable news coverage, more than half of states are actually seeing cases decline or remain stable."

As of today, according to the New York Times' latest data-visualization report, the vast majority of states are seeing increases in their coronavirus cases.

Every state, territory and major metropolitan area, with the exception of three, have positive test rates under 10%.

It was a dubious claim at the time, and it's worse now.

Lost in the coverage is the fact that today less than 6% of Americans tested each week are found to have the virus.

The number has since increased to nearly 9%.

Cases have stabilized over the past two weeks, with the daily average case rate across the U.S. dropping to 20,000 -- down from 30,000 in April and 25,000 in May.

The latest data shows a daily average of 60,000 new cases per day -- triple the numbers the vice president bragged about.

And in the past five days, deaths are down to fewer than 750 a day, a dramatic decline from 2,500 a day a few weeks ago -- and a far cry from the 5,000 a day that some were predicting.

While fatality totals steadily improved in recent months, the Associated Press reported over the weekend, "A long-expected upturn in U.S. coronavirus deaths has begun, driven by fatalities in states in the South and West, according to data on the pandemic."

The media has tried to scare the American people every step of the way, and these grim predictions of a second wave are no different. The truth is, whatever the media says, our whole-of-America approach has been a success.

The first wave never really ended. The problem is not with media coverage; it's with an administration that's failed to respond responsibly to a public-health crisis.

As for whether the White House's strategy -- to the extent such a strategy exists -- has been "a success," the increasingly disastrous numbers paint a far more heartbreaking picture.

It's likely that Pence and others on Team Trump, when crafting the WSJ op-ed a month ago, felt genuine optimism. They were willing to write the opinion piece, and put the vice president's credibility on the line, because they assumed it wouldn't be easily discredited soon after.

And in some ways, that confidence makes all of this just a little worse. Did no one at the White House see the coronavirus threats on the horizon?