As the number of new coronavirus cases in the United States hit a record high for the third straight day on Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar tried to praise outgoing President Donald Trump's response to the pandemic.
Azar's comments came at a late afternoon news conference about Covid-19—during which Trump, who has refused to concede to President-elect Joe Biden, took no questions from reporters and did not directly mention last week's election.
Speaking after Trump, the health secretary said: "Thank you, Mr. President, for providing the leadership that's gotten us where we are today. The success that Operation Warp Speed has realized so far has been made possible only because of the bold vision you announced not even six months ago right here in the Rose Garden."
As of Friday, the United States shattered records yet again by reporting over 165,000 cases. According to the Washington Post, "Eighteen states, most of them in the Midwest, have reported record numbers of hospitalizations, a 'catastrophic' surge that experts say is rooted in distrust of the government."
The contrast between Azar's attempted praise during the event to update the public on Covid-19 vaccine trials and the reality that Americans are facing right now in terms of both health and financial conditions was immediately highlighted on social media by journalists and critics of Trump:
LOL Alex Azar starts his remarks by thanking President Trump for “providing the leadership that’s gotten us to wher… https://t.co/lYYfrXxIIe— Daniel W. Drezner (@Daniel W. Drezner)1605304336.0
"the leadership that's gotten us where we are today": 244K dead, and record spread of a deadly pandemic.… https://t.co/NGmxf72LqI— Don Moynihan (@Don Moynihan)1605304675.0
The Trump administration, along with the president personally, has faced intense criticism for mishandling the pandemic. In the wake of Trump's defeat, cases have kept climbing—including among Secret Service agents—and critics have continued to call him out for failing to adequately tackle the crisis.
"Instead of fighting to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic that has killed over 242,000 Americans, the Trump administration is spending its final days in office fighting a bogus voter 'fraud' problem that does not exist," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Thursday. "Pathetic. The Biden-Harris Administration cannot come soon enough."