While other nations such as Spain and Italy have seen an overall decline in new cases of COVID, the US is reporting a new high in the number of those infected. Other nations have followed the advice of public health officials. The US has not.

Mike Pence looked for good news in the rising number of COVID cases in the south and west. The spike is only happening in certain counties, he said, and it’s mostly among younger people who have less risk of death.

Pence did not wear a mask at the press briefing of the coronavirus task force.

The Trump administration on Friday claimed “remarkable progress” in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, despite a surge of cases in the South and West and as several Republican governors allied with President Trump are under pressure to impose stricter public health restrictions to gain control of outbreaks in their states.

Vice President Pence held the first public briefing of the coronavirus task force in nearly two months and sought to deliver an upbeat message that was at odds with warnings from public health experts. The vice president dodged the question of whether people should wear masks in public, as his own administration recommends, and said campaign rallies that pack people together, in violation of public health guidance, will continue.

Pence offered no new strategies to combat the rapidly spreading virus and minimized record daily case counts in several states as “outbreaks in specific counties….”

While Pence acknowledged the rising numbers of cases in the South and the West, he sought to play down the threat while heaping praise on Trump for how he has handled the pandemic. The vice president argued that many of the new cases are being found in younger Americans, who are at less risk of developing deadly complications from the virus than older Americans are. He also argued that states have told him they have enough medical equipment to deal with the surge in infections and repeated the misleading claim that more testing is the main reason for the rising numbers of cases.

Pence rejected the idea that campaign rallies should be curtailed during the pandemic, arguing that the events are constitutionally protected free speech, and he defended two events Trump held in the past week over objections from local officials or the advice of his own public health advisers.

“Well, the freedom of speech, the right to peaceably assemble, is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States, and we have an election coming up this fall,” Pence said, adding that people who attend such events are offered screenings and health advice.