(USA Features) Leading 2020 Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday called President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus outbreak “disgusting,” even as he took a jab at Vice President Mike Pence, who is in charge of coordinating the administration’s response.
Sanders, a long-serving Independent from Vermont, expressed outrage following the president’s nationally televised press conference on Wednesday in which he downplayed the severity and threat of the virus.
Sanders claimed Trump’s “disgusting” response to the coronavirus, so far, involved cutting winter heating assistance for the poor, allowing “ex-pharma lobbyist Alex Azar refuse to guarantee affordable vaccines to all,” and having Pence, “who wanted to ‘pray away’ [the] HIV epidemic.”
The Vice President has not said that, however, while Azar did tell lawmakers he couldn’t lock down a price for a potential vaccine because it is still in the development and testing phase.
“I’m saying we would want to ensure that we work to make it affordable, but we can’t control that price, because we need the private sector to invest,” Azar told Congress on Wednesday. “Price controls won’t get us there.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), a supporter of Sanders, also lambasted Trump’s appointment of Pence as leader of the task force.
“Mike Pence literally does not believe in science. It is utterly irresponsible to put him in charge of US coronavirus response as the world sits on the cusp of a pandemic,” she said.
“This decision could cost people their lives. Pence’s past decisions already have,” she added, failing to specify which of Pence’s decisions has cost people their lives.
The coronavirus has infected over 82,000 people worldwide and killed 2,804, most of whom were in China. The U.S. is currently monitoring 60 cases within the country, although most of them stem from evacuees of the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed on Wednesday a case in California “in a person not associated with relevant travel history or exposure to another known infected patient.” The agency is continuing to investigate that incident.
By comparison, “CDC estimates that so far this season there have been at least 29 million flu illnesses, 280,000 hospitalizations and 16,000 deaths from flu,” the nation’s health agency said.
The CDC added that the mortality rate for this year’s flu season is 6.8 percent, below the “epidemic” threshold of 7.3 percent.
The average morality rate for the coronavirus in China ranged from a high of 4.9 percent in Wuhan City, China, where the virus originated, to a low of 0.16 percent throughout the country, for an average of 2.1 percent mortality.