White House Task Force gives 1st coronavirus briefing since April as cases spike in the South

(AP) The White House coronavirus task force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, held its first briefing in nearly two months, and Pence gave assurances that the U.S. is “in a much better place” than it was two months ago.
He said the country has more medical supplies on hand, a smaller share of patients are being hospitalized, and deaths are much lower than they were in the spring. The count of new confirmed infections, provided by Johns Hopkins University, eclipsed the previous high of 36,400, set on April 24, during one of the deadliest stretches.
Newly reported cases per day have risen on average about 60 percent over the past two weeks, according to an Associated Press analysis. While the rise partly reflects expanded testing, experts say there is ample evidence the scourge is making a comeback, including rising deaths and hospitalizations in parts of the country and higher percentages of tests coming back positive for the virus.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, urged people to mind their responsibility to others: “A risk for you is not just isolated to you.” Deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S. are running at about 600 per day, down from a peak of around 2,200 in mid-April. Some experts have expressed doubt that deaths will return to that level, because of advances in treatment and prevention and because younger adults are more likely than older ones to survive.
The virus is blamed for about 125,000 deaths and 2.4 million confirmed infections nationwide, by Johns Hopkins' count. But health officials believe the true number of infections is about 10 times higher. Worldwide, the virus has claimed close to a half-million lives, according to Johns Hopkins.
- More than 126,000 U.S. deaths so far. Vice President Mike Pence expresses condolences from him and President Donald Trump.
- Pence: We have made truly remarkable progress since the end of "45 Days to Slow the Spread" and beginning of efforts to reopen America.
- With cases rising over past week in the South, Trump directed task force to brief public.
- Pence: It's important to take a look back and see how far we've come.
- Pence: No outstanding requests for PPE in areas of the South seeing spike in cases.
- Pence: "Our focus today is very much on the advent of a rising series of new cases across the American South."
- Pence says cases are rising precipitously across the South. "34 states across the country are experiencing a measure of stability."
- "There are 16 states with rising cases and rising percentages, and we'll be focusing on those states today," says Pence.
- Pence says more cases is a reflection of expanding testing across the country, says U.S. is testing more than 500,000 people a day. "It's truly been remarkable."
- Pence says roughly half of new cases in surging areas are people under 35.
- Hospitalization remains broadly available in areas with deep impact, Pence says.
- Pence: "We can still take some comfort in the fact that fatalities are declining all across the country."
- This week there were two days with less than 300 U.S. deaths, says Pence.
- "We still have work to do," Pence says about cases rising in the South.
- Pence reiterates the previous guidelines: Washing hands, good hygiene, social distancing, temperature checks, testing and isolation, PPE.
- Dr. Deborah Birx says officials have better understanding of who is at risk, including people with diabetes and who are overweight.
- Birx says Texas, Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Nevada, Utah are states with highest increase in test positivity.
- Birx reiterates that individual behavior is what will slow the spread.
- Birx thanks the under-40 age group for increase in testing.
- Dr. Anthony Fauci says "We are facing a serious problem in certain areas."
- Fauci says "a risk for you is not just isolated to you."
- "If you get infected, you will infect someone else..." says Fauci. "And ultimately you will infect someone who's vulnerable."
- "You have a societal responsibility, because if we want to end this outbreak ... we've got to realize that we are part of the process," says Fauci.
- Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says "America has never been readier to combat COVID-19.” 
- Azar vaccine candidates may be able to deliver doses by end of the year.
- CDC Director Robert Redfield reiterates social distancing, hand washing, face coverings.
- Redfield appeals to under-40 age group to commit themselves to safe practice to protect those at risk.
- Redfield stresses there are difference in what is happening today than what was happening in March, cites number of pneumonia deaths.
- "Really think seriously about the responsibility to others that we have," says Redfield. "Embrace our nation's recommendations."
"We still want to give people the freedom to participate in the political process," says Pence of Trump rallies. Pence says people at rallies are using common sense and being responsible.
- Asked about masks as a political statement, Pence says people should listen to local and state authorities. "Heed the guidance," says Pence.
- Pence says there will be a temptation to look at the Sun Belt states reopening and suggest that reopening has something to do with the new spikes, but says what is being observed today is we're seeing more and more young people testing positive - sometimes asymptomatic.
- Fauci says he's concerned about community spread from asymptomatic people.