“I want to ask you again, Dr. Hahn,” Raddatz pressed. “How many cases would you say are harmless?”
“You know, any case, we don’t want to have in this country. This is a very rapidly moving epidemic, rapidly moving pandemic. And any death, any case is tragic. And we want to do everything we can to prevent that,” Hahn replied.
The commissioner similarly demurred when questioned on CNN’s “State of the Union” by host Dana Bash. “I’m not going to get into who is right and who is wrong,” he said, adding: “We have seen the surge in cases. We must do something to stem the tide.”
Hahn also urged Americans to follow CDC guidance and comply with protocols from municipal and state governments — though, as several local leaders have noted, those can often be at odds.
As Hahn struggled Sunday to explain the factual basis for the president’s statistic, mayors of Southern communities that have emerged as coronavirus hot spots flatly rejected the 99 percent figure.
“No, that’s not the case,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“I will tell you, a month ago, one in 10 people were testing positive. Today, it’s 1 in 4,” Turner said. “The number of people who are getting sick and going to the hospitals has exponentially increased. The number of people in our ICU beds has exponentially increased.”
“It makes me angry,” Austin, Texas, Mayor Steve Adler told CNN of Trump’s statement. “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.”
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez also insisted on CBS that the coronavirus “is not harmless. No, absolutely not.” If it were, he added, “I wouldn’t be taking the steps that we’re taking here in Miami-Dade.”
The U.S. has conducted more than 4 million tests in the past week — more than ever before — but the jump in testing capacity has been overshadowed by record-breaking daily new infections as states reopen. This is especially true in places like Arizona, California, Florida and Texas.
In his Saturday speech, Trump contradicted several public health experts by predicting the U.S. will “likely have a therapeutic and/or vaccine solution long before the end of the year.” But on Sunday, Hahn acknowledged he couldn’t definitively say when a vaccine would be available.
“Yes, we are seeing unprecedented speed for the development of a vaccine,” he said. But with respect to the FDA’s role, “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.”