Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, said the Trump administration is "not going to control the pandemic" as the US hit its highest daily number of coronavirus cases since summer and more than 220,000 people have died from the virus.
"We're not going to control the pandemic," Meadows told CNN's Jake Tapper on State of the Union on Sunday.
Tapper pressed Meadows on his response, asking the official why he believes the country isn't going to get the virus under control.
"Because it is a contagious virus, just like the flu," Meadows replied.
Meadows' comments came as coronavirus cases surged in alarming numbers across the country even as the Trump campaign continues to hold large rallies with little regard to social distancing and wearing masks.
Meadows said Sunday that the White House would be focused on combatting the disease by getting "vaccines, therapeutics," though experts say a vaccine likely won't be available until next year.
"What we need to do is make sure that we have the proper mitigation factors, whether it's therapies or vaccines or treatments to make sure that people don't die from this," Meadows said.
Tapper then asked Meadows why the government would not make efforts to contain the virus, to which Meadows responded, "Well, we are making efforts to contain it."
Responding to Meadows' comments, Joe Biden's campaign said that the Trump administration "has given up on even trying to control this pandemic, that they've given up on their basic duty to protect the American people."
"This wasn't a slip by Meadows, it was a candid acknowledgment of what President Trump's strategy has clearly been from the beginning of this crisis: to wave the white flag of defeat and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would simply go away. It hasn't, and it won't," Biden's campaign said in a statement.
Biden's statement echoed what experts have advised: that "universal masking could save around 100,000 lives over the next few months."
Tapper questioned Meadows as to why top White House officials hadn't been practicing CDC guidelines for mitigating the virus' spread, like wearing masks, at a time when at least five people in Vice President Mike Pence's orbit, the head of the White House coronavirus task force, have tested positive for COVID-19.
Pence's office said Sunday that the vice president and his wife Karen have tested negative. The White House made it clear that Pence will continue to campaign despite several people close to him being infected.
Meadows' comments reflect the Trump administration's lax attitude toward the virus in general — from the president's reluctance to wear masks, as well as his continued in-person rallies, which, because of contact tracing, has seen the virus spreading among attendees, to his insistence that American's shouldn't let the virus — which has killed more than a quarter of a million Americans — "dominate."
Positive cases recently exceeded 80,000 — the highest single-day increase since the pandemic began. On Tapper's show, Meadows tried to deflect the severity of the mounting increase in cases by focusing on Biden, saying the former vice president would shut down the country and that he warned of a "dark winter."
Biden said the US is headed for a difficult winter due to the pandemic, referencing what experts have been saying for quite some time. Last week, Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told NBC, that "the next six to 12 weeks are going to be the darkest of the entire pandemic.”
And during Thursday's final presidential debate, Biden said that he would "shut down the virus, not the country."
Circling back to the White House's response to the pandemic, Tapper asked Meadows why masks aren't "required" at Trump's rallies.
"We don't mandate masks because, here's the other thing — we offer them out, we live in a free society, Jake," Meadows said.