On a new episode of “The Ben Shapiro Show: Sunday Special,” Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro speaks with two key figures on the White House Coronavirus Task Force: Vice President Mike Pence, who’s heading up the task force, and Dr. Deborah Birx, who is serving as the coronavirus response coordinator. In the discussion, Shapiro asked the two leaders about how national and state attempts to “slow the spread” are going, and “how long before this all comes to an end.”
Shapiro first spoke with Vice President Pence, who offered a hopeful message about the steps Americans and state and local governments have taken thus far to help combat the pandemic.
“While there are areas of the country where there are significant outbreaks … and people should absolutely listen to state and local health authorities on what’s best to keep themselves and their families and their loved ones — particularly vulnerable loved ones — safe, what every American can continue to do is to put the principles of the ’15 Days to Slow the Spread’ into practice,” said the Vice President. “The great news is — we’re hearing it all over the country — tens of millions of Americans have been using the drive-thru at a restaurant, avoiding gatherings of more than ten, putting off non-essential travel, working from home. We have every confidence that as the data continues to unfold in the weeks ahead, we will see that the steps of the American people and family and businesses around the country, across the board, has significantly impacted the spread of the coronavirus in our country, and ultimately saved lives.”
“The threat of the coronavirus, even to people that contract the disease, the threat of serious illness is very low,” Pence underscored. “For most Americans, especially young Americans like yourself, you’ll have in some cases no symptoms, mild symptoms, or flu-like symptoms. But there is a small percentage of Americans, particularly seniors with serious underlying health conditions and anyone with an immunodeficiency, for whom the threat of a serious outcome is very real.”
Shapiro responded by stressing that he has been particularly appreciative of the measured response from the administration, which has refrained from using the powers of the government to “cram down” solutions “that could be done via the private sector.” That restraint, Shapiro noted, has also “brought a lot of criticism on the administration,” with some suggesting that the Defense Production Act “should have been invoked sooner or invoked differently,” and some even calling for the nationalization of the supply chain.
Pence noted that while the president ultimately did choose to invoke the act two weeks ago, and has used it to empower the Justice Department to aggressively crack down on those who were price gouging, the “really inspiring” development has been that Trump has not had to use it for other measures because of American businesses being eager to help the government in its requests. “Frankly, Ben, every business that we have asked to step up has said yes,” said Pence. “…Our first approach is to say let’s ask American businesses to join with us in an American response, and, not surprisingly, American businesses are doing just that.”
After expressing disbelief that some would criticize Trump for wanting to get Americans back to work as soon as it is safe to do so, Shapiro then asked about how the White House is figuring out the “formula” for determining when it was the right time for different regions to ease up on lockdown measures.
“The word that I hear every single day is ‘data,'” Pence responded. “We have not just the best infectious disease scientists in the country, but the best in the world that are part of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. We are analyzing the data every day.”
Citing the public-private partnership Trump set up with commercial labs, Pence explained, we have now conducted well over half-a-million tests around the country and are developing point-of-care tests that will soon be available. The experts are feeding the increasingly more thorough and accurate data into their models daily, even at times hourly, to determine the degree of the threat.
Trump, Pence stressed, wants to open up the country “as soon as we responsibly can,” and the task force is looking “county by county” at the numbers to determine where the biggest threats of spread reside and when it is best to ease up on some of the social distancing measures. Ultimately, it will be the governors who make the decisions for their states, Pence explained, and there will continue to be some degree of social distancing even where some of the business and school lockdowns are lifted.
“What the president recognizes is that it’s not a choice between putting the health of America first and the economy first,” said Pence. “A strong economy contributes to health and well-being of Americans every day.”
In his discussion with Dr. Birx, Shapiro asked the doctor how confident she is that New York City will not end up like Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the virus. Birx explained that the data they are receiving on the total number of ICU beds, the ventilators, the additional hospitals they’ve built, and the activation of a U.S. Navy medical ship, which is helping out with the crisis in the city, is giving the task force a “very high confidence level” that they will be able to adequately respond. If the numbers change, they will respond quickly by bringing in more resources, she suggested.
After pointing out that the media has criticized her for calling them out on their frequent use of the most extreme projections, Shapiro asked Birx how her team is estimating COVID-19’s mortality rate. Birx explained that initially, health experts must use models to project how a virus will impact communities, but as more hard data is available, the real numbers on the ground begin to reshape the models to provide more accurate projections. The real question that remains unanswered is how many people are asymptomatic, which requires looking at antibody levels, which simply isn’t possible yet. However, as Shapiro noted, the initial alarming mortality rates included in some influential models appear to be far higher than the real numbers indicate.
Watch the full episode above.