Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Sunday that, when it comes to coronavirus, it’s important to “treat the American people like adults.”
“It’s very important that we treat the American people like adults and explain to them that we don't know where this will go, that we will see more cases, that we will see continued community spreading in the United States, as we're seeing around the world,” Azar said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“How big that gets, we do not know,” he continued. “But we have the most advanced public health system and surveillance system in the world. ... And we're going to work to protect the American people with every tool that we've got.”
Azar wouldn’t classify the coronavirus as a pandemic: “I'm going to leave it for the World Health Organization to decide if we're there.”
But he said "we have the capability in the field to test 75,000 people," and that number will expand dramatically over the next week. Azar also hopes to expand surveillance testing of flu-like symptoms across the country.
This announcement comes amid criticism from Democrats that the administration has been slow to respond to the coronavirus.
Speaking with CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged the United States has lagged behind other countries in the manufacturing and distribution of coronavirus testing kits.
Azar defended the administration's response, saying more than 3,600 people in the U.S. have been tested and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed a lab test “with historic speed.” He also defended President Donald Trump’s demonizing of Democrats for what he says are their “hoax” reactions to Trump’s handling of the situation.
“He's talking about the partisan sniping that we're seeing. And that's just — it's unnecessary. We don't need to have this made a political issue. We're in a public health crisis here.”