Vice President Mike Pence called the death of more than 200,000 Americans from the coronavirus a “heartbreaking milestone” Tuesday but said President Trump’s early actions saved “hundreds of thousands of lives.”
“In the midst of this pandemic we’ve come to a heartbreaking moment. It’s a heartbreaking milestone,” Pence said without mentioning the number while at a campaign event in Gilford, N.H. “There’s not a day gone by that I haven’t thought of families that have lost loved ones in the midst of this pandemic. Know that you’ve always been in our hearts and you’ll remain in our prayers.”
He praised the president as well as first responders and health care workers for their efforts.
“I truly do believe because of what we’ve all done together, because of the president’s early action putting the health of America first, because of what our first responders and doctors and nurses have done all along the way, because of the compassion, and care and cooperation of the American people, I know in my heart that we have saved hundreds of thousands of American lives,” he said.
“We’re slowing the spread, we’re protecting the vulnerable, we’re saving lives,” he added.
Trump chose Pence last spring to lead the White House’s coronavirus task force as the virus began to spread across the country.
The president has been accused by his critics of not taking the pandemic seriously and of not taking decisive action to help slow the spread. Democratic nominee Joe Biden has blamed him for the high death count.
Trump reiterated this week that he believes the country is “rounding the turn” on the pandemic and has said he thinks a vaccine could be ready for distribution as early as late next month.
He called the deaths Tuesday a "shame" but told reporters that without his leadership there could have been millions of deaths.
Some health experts are skeptical of that timetable for the vaccine, however, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said recently Americans should “hunker down” for the fall and winter during flu season.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.