Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday sounded an optimistic note about the fight to control the spread of the coronavirus and said that President Donald Trump has put the U.S. in a good position to respond to the rising number of cases in many states such as Texas, Arizona, Florida and California.
“What the American people should know is that because of the leadership that President Trump has provided, because of the extraordinary innovation that we have brought to this task, we’re in a much better place to respond to these outbreaks than we were four months ago,” Pence said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.
But according to a new CBS News poll conducted last week, 62% of Americans think the battle to stop the virus – which has killed more than 125,000 people in the U.S. and infected more than 2.5 million – is going “badly.” And in contrast to Pence’s praise for Trump’s leadership, 59% of Americans said the president has done a “bad” job of handling the pandemic, including 43% who said he was doing a “very bad” job.
Seventy-two percent of the respondents said the Trump administration was “unprepared to deal with this outbreak as it was starting.” And 73% said that fewer Americans would have died if a plan to respond to the outbreak had been in place sooner.
Americans were also not optimistic that the situation would improve in the near future. One-quarter of the respondents said they expected the outbreak to get better over the course of the summer, while 49% expected things to get worse and 26% said they think the situation will remain about the same.
On Friday, Pence failed to mention mask-wearing as he listed steps Americans should take to stop the spread of the virus during a White House Pandemic Task Force news conference. But during a news conference Sunday with Texas Gov. Greg Abbot, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx, Pence encouraged “everyone in Texas to wear a mask.”
“If you can’t maintain social distancing – if you’re going to be within 6 feet of people for more than 15 minutes, it’s just a good idea to wear a mask,” he said. If Americans wear facial coverings and other measures such are closing bars are taken, the vice president said he was “very confident that we’re going to get through this.”
But Trump, who has avoided wearing a mask in public, told The Wall Street Journal earlier this month that he thinks some people wear masks as a political symbol of opposition to him rather than as a health precaution. And he expressed concern that they are not hygienic.
Few Americans agree with Trump’s perspective, according to the CBS News poll, and 76% of them said they don’t follow his advice on the subject. When they see someone wearing a facial covering, 82% of the respondents said they don’t think the person is wearing it to express opposition to Trump. However, when someone does not wear a mask, 45% said it was an expression of support for Trump. Eighty-five percent said those who don’t wear masks don’t think they’re at risk and aren’t concerned about catching it.
While 82% said those who don’t wear masks “are not being considerate toward others,” a 53% majority also thought people who do wear them are “overreacting.”
Less than half, 47%, of Americans said they always wear a mask when they go out and another 22% said they wear one “most of the time.” Sixteen percent said they wear one “once in a while” and 12% said they never wear one.