The Slatest

White House Official: Americans Will “Just Have to Live With” Massive Coronavirus Surge

Kudlow leans over to speak into a microphone set up in the middle of a road as two women wearing masks stand at a distance behind him.
National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow outside the White House on May 15. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The three most populous states in the U.S. recorded their highest daily totals of new coronavirus cases on Wednesday. California announced more than 7,000, while Florida and Texas announced about 5,500 each. The “positivity rate” of tests in those states is increasing, which means the rise in cases discovered is not explained by increased test availability; in Florida and Texas, positivity rates have roughly doubled in the past week and tripled in the past month. Both of those states’ governors have been outspoken about keeping as many businesses and public spaces open as possible despite the recommendations of public health experts; neither state requires residents to wear masks in public. It’s only been in the past week that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has begun to emphasize the urgency of wearing masks in order to stop the spread of the virus throughout the bars, luxury stores, and nail salons that have been open to Texans for the past month. (Abbott had previously said that he personally recommended wearing masks, but his talking points on the subject included the caveat that to require anyone to put one on would be an infringement of “liberty.”)

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow addressed the situation on Thursday morning on CNBC:

There is no second wave coming. It’s just hot spots. They send in CDC teams, we’ve got the testing procedures, we’ve got the diagnostics, we’ve got the PPE. And so I really think it’s a pretty good situation.

Kudlow also spoke to reporters in person at the White House, saying that “We’re going to have hot spots, no question,” and that “we just have to live with that.”

Here’s what the United States’ daily case count line graph currently looks like:

A blue line representing the United States' rate of COVID-19 cases rises, falls, and then begins rising again.
91-DIVOC

It’s literally another wave! It’s what a child would draw if you asked them to draw two waves.

Kudlow’s previous highlight as a White House official was the Feb. 25 interview in which he said the coronavirus had been “contained” in the U.S. According to Northeastern University modeling cited in a Thursday New York Times visual about the spread of the pandemic, the number of undetected cases in the country rose from about 2,000 to about 32,000 between Feb. 15 and March 1.

On Thursday, Kudlow also said the administration will not respond to rising numbers by encouraging another nationwide lockdown, which speaks to his motive for downplaying the pandemic—namely, that he believes it’s his job to advance the interests of “the economy” as defined by the short-term top-line indicators, which are damaged when businesses close. But at almost the same time, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was busy announcing a “pause” in the state’s reopening, which will not be good for sales or employment. This impossibility, of making a full economic recovery without a full public health recovery, is a bind that almost every official in the U.S. except hard-line Trump loyalists saw coming. But if Kudlow’s press tour was any indication, the White House’s official position is that it would still prefer not to acknowledge reality.

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