White House coronavirus task force: Reporting on fall COVID-19 outbreak inaccurate

By Dan McCaleb | The Center Square

The White House Coronavirus Task Force on Wednesday sought to correct what it said was a “fake” headline on a Washington Post story about the possibility of a second surge of COVID-19 in the fall.

Under the headline “CDC director warns second wave of coronavirus is likely to be even more devastating,” the story detailed comments from an interview with Centers for Disease Control Director Ken Redfield.

“There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” Redfield told The Washington Post. “And when I’ve said this to others, they kind of put their head back, they don’t understand what I mean. We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time.”

While Redfield said he was quoted accurately in the story, he and President Donald Trump said the story’s headline inaccurately described the director’s comments.

Redfield said he was talking about two viruses, COVID-19 and the flu, being spread during the same time period and the need for testing to distinguish between the two. Redfield said if more Americans embraced the flu vaccine, any outbreak won’t be near as bad.

“I didn’t say this was going to be worse. I said it was going to be more difficult and potentially complicated because we’ll have flu and coronavirus circulating at the same time,” he said.

“The key to my comments and the reason I really wanted to stress them was to embrace the flu vaccine with confidence,” Redfield said. “By fall and winter, we’re going to have two viruses, and we’re going to have to distinguish.”

Trump said the country’s current response to COVID-19 means that, even if it comes back in the fall, it won’t be as bad.

“It’s not going to come back at anything near what we’ve been through,” Trump said.

In an emailed response to The Center Square, The Washington Post said the story was accurate but it didn’t directly address the headline.

“At today’s briefing, the CDC director confirmed he was quoted accurately,” Shani George, director of communications at The Washington Post, said.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said health officials have time to learn more about the novel coroanvirus that causes COVID-19 and to test a new flu vaccine, which she urged Americans to get.

“We have all of that time to test clearly the algorithm that you would need in a flu vaccine if, potentially, COVID-19 would come back,” Birx said. “Please add to the guidelines and get the flu vaccine.”

Birx said if there’s another outbreak of COVID-19 in the fall, health care officials will be able to identify it earlier. She also said that she hopes flu cases decline because more people are getting the vaccines.

“Recent [COVID-19] hot spots appear to be stabilizing,” Trump said. “They’re going down, they appear to be declining.”

As of Wednesday, more than 800,000 people in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19, and more than 45,000 have died.

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