Pence Casts Pandemic Response as Success

Vice President Mike Pence, speaking at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night, showered President Trump with praise for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In accepting the nomination for a second term in office, he suggested the administration was on the verge of delivering the “miracle” that Trump wished for early in the pandemic.

“America is a nation of miracles, and I’m proud to report that we’re on track to have the world’s first safe, effective coronavirus vaccine by the end of this year,” Pence said.

Though he mourned with those who had lost loved ones and those who are still fighting SARS-CoV-2, he stressed that more therapeutics are under development and “saving lives” across the country, he said.

“After all the sacrifice in this year like no other – all the hardship– we’re finding our way forward again,” Pence said.

To date, nearly 180,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. and more than 5.8 million people have been infected with the virus. Deaths have been averaging about 1,000 per day in recent weeks.

In Pence’s telling, the administration’s response to the virus was decisive and nearly flawless. President Trump took the “unprecedented action” of suspending some (though not all) travel from China to the U.S., buying the country time to develop its response and saving “untold [numbers of ] American lives,” Pence said.

“President Trump marshalled the full resources of our federal government from the outset,” built “a seamless partnership” with both Republican and Democratic governors, and is now performing 800,000 tests a day.

Overall the administration has delivered “billions of pieces of personal protective equipment” (PPE) for healthcare workers, Pence said.

Pence also spoke of his administration “reinvent[ing] testing” through public-private partnerships, surging military medical personnel capacity, manufacturing 100,000 ventilators in 100 days, and “enacting an economic rescue package that saved 50 million American jobs,” Pence said, referring to the CARES Act.

Other Speakers Weigh In

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) also praised President Trump’s response to the pandemic.

When Zeldin learned that Suffolk County, New York’s stockpile of PPE was depleted due to COVID-19, he connected with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and advisor, making plans late into the night one Saturday in April.

“The very next day, President Trump announced he was sending us 200,000 N95 masks,” Zeldin said, and ended up delivering twice that amount. In all, 1.2 million PPE items including masks, gowns, and other equipment were sent to Suffolk County.

“The president sent thousands of ventilators to New York. He deployed the Comfort [a U.S. Navy hospital ship] and converted the Javits [Convention] Center to a field hospital. His administration authorized our lab testing requests at blinding speed…. During a once in a century pandemic, an unforeseeable crisis… the president’s effort for New York was phenomenal,” Zeldin said.

Those assertions, of course, contradict previous reports of governors’ struggle to obtain needed supplies, difficulties in accessing tests, and delayed results. Healthcare providers across the country also complained for months about PPE shortages. On Wednesday, before the evening’s speeches got underway, American Medical Association President Susan Bailey, MD, again called out the “persistent shortage of N95 masks, gowns, and other forms of personal protective equipment” and criticized the federal government’s allocation of available supplies.

Pre-Existing Conditions

In her turn on the virtual stage, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEneny described choosing a prophylactic mastectomy after testing positive for the BRCA2 gene. Eight women in her family have been diagnosed with breast cancer, she said.

McAneny said she was frightened about the surgery and “blown away” when President Trump phoned to check on her afterwards.

“Here was the leader of the free world caring about my circumstance,” she said. “And I can tell you that this president stands by Americans with pre-existing conditions…. The same way President Trump has supported me, he supports you.”

President Trump has on multiple occasions repeated his support for people with pre-existing conditions, even issuing an executive order to that effect. However, the Trump administration is continuing to support a lawsuit that aims to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, which already protects people with pre-existing conditions.

While Trump has made countless promises to provide a comprehensive replacement plan for the ACA in the event it is repealed or thrown out by the courts, he has yet to do so.

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    Shannon Firth has been reporting on health policy as MedPage Today’s Washington correspondent since 2014. She is also a member of the site’s Enterprise & Investigative Reporting team. Follow