- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 19, 2020

The White House coronavirus task force told Americans to “increase their vigilance” against the coronavirus as the national death toll surpasses a quarter-million and federal scientists urge the public to avoid travel and consider virtual gatherings for Thanksgiving.

Government scientist Deborah Birx said many asymptomatic people are unknowingly spreading the virus to others, so mask-wearing is critical as people move indoors and the curve of reported infections shoots up vertically.

“This is really a call to action for every Americans to increase their vigilance because of the graphic that is shown here,” Dr. Birx said in front of graphics in the White House briefing room. “This is more cases, more rapidly, than what we had seen before.”

Dr. Birx said the federal distribution of rapid antigen tests should help states root out infected persons, even if they don’t feel sick. But she said people need to be wary of mixing households, as gatherings drive spread.

Vice President Mike Pence said the good news is that the government is able to track personal protective gear from hospital to hospital, while using therapeutics to improve survival rates. A pair of vaccines could be approved for emergency use before the year, with millions of doses going out the door once that happens.

“America has never been more prepared to combat this virus than we are today,” Mr. Pence said.

Still, there are rough days ahead as the worlds waits on a vaccine. The nationwide rate of tests returning positive has increased from 5% to 10%, while hospitalizations approach 80,000 — up from about 36,000 on Oct. 18.

“We’re going to work around the clock to meet that need,” Mr. Pence said of hospital capacity and supplies.

More than 1,000 Americans are dying per day from COVID-19, as the death toll speeds by 250,000

Mr. Pence said “not a day has gone by” that he doesn’t think of families that lost someone, and he thanked the American people for their “extraordinary sacrifices” during the pandemic.

“We’ve been through a lot together,” Mr. Pence said.

Mr. Pence said the administration will not recommend another nationwide stay-at-home order and does not support school closures, saying they impose unacceptable costs on children.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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