FDA chief Stephen Hahn refuses to comment on Trump's claim that 99% Covid-19 cases are 'harmless'
But he added that by not following local, state, CDC and White House task force guidelines, Americans are putting themselves and their loved ones at risk
US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr Stephen Hahn refused to react to President Donald Trump's unsubstantiated claim that 99% of Covid-19 cases are "totally harmless". He, however, asked Americans to take the threat seriously by practicing social distancing and wearing masks.
"I'm not going to get into who is right and who is wrong," Dr Hahn, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, told CNN's Dana Bash. "What I'll say is that we have data in the White House task force. Those data show us that this is a serious problem. People need to take it seriously," Hahn said.
But during his speech on Independence Day, Trump downplayed the threat. "There were no tests for a new virus, but now we have tested over 40 million people. But by so doing, we show cases, 99 percent of which are totally harmless. Results that no other country will show, because no other country has testing that we have — not in terms of the numbers or in terms of the quality."
The CDC predicted that 35% of those infected show no signs of the disease. Data suggests that these people are also capable of passing on the virus to others. The same applies to patients with mild disease. The US leads the world with over 2.88M cases and more than 129K deaths. Dr Hahn said that he supported the guidance being put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). By not following local, state, CDC and White House task force guidelines, Americans are putting themselves and their loved ones at risk, he added.
CNN's Bash pressed Hahn for more details about the proportion of harmless cases. He responded by saying the pandemic was rapidly moving and evolving. "And any death, any case is tragic. And we want to do everything we can to prevent that," he said.
Even as Hahn stayed silent, the mayors of the southern states — which have now become the hotspots — dismissed Trump's remarks. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told CBS, "No, that’s not the case. I will tell you, a month ago, one in 10 people were testing positive. Today, it’s 1 in 4." He added that the number of people who are getting sick and going to the hospitals and the demands for ICU beds has exponentially increased.
Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin in Texas, also expressed his displeasure over Trump's "harmless" statement. “It makes me angry. You know, I understand he has a tough job. But it is dangerous not to be sending a clear message to Americans, to folks in my town," he told CNN.
Commenting on Trump's optimistic vaccine timeline of having one ready long before the end of the year, Dr Hahn said he could not predict when it would be ready. "Yes, we are seeing unprecedented speed for the development of a vaccine. But… our solemn promise to the American people is that we will make a decision based upon the data and science on a vaccine, with respect to the safety and effectiveness of that vaccine," he told ABC.