WASHINGTON: White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said on Sunday (Oct 25) that the United States will not be able to "control the pandemic", amid a spike of COVID-19 cases across the country and a fresh outbreak in the White House.
The US has seen its highest ever number of new COVID-19 cases in the past two days, keeping the pandemic a top election issue as Vice President Mike Pence travels the country to campaign despite close aides testing positive.
The US reported 79,852 new infections on Saturday, close to the previous day's record of 84,244 new cases. Hospitalisations are also rising and have hit a two-month high and deaths are trending upwards, according to a Reuters tally.
During an interview with CNN, Meadows conceded that "we are not going to control the pandemic", which he said could only be done through "vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas".
When pressed on why the administration would not get control of the virus, he replied, "Because it is a contagious virus just like the flu."
He then qualified that, saying, "We are making efforts to contain it."
Democrat Joe Biden's running mate Kamala Harris was asked during a campaign stop in Michigan about Meadows' comments and said: "They are admitting defeat, and I've been saying that, and Joe Biden has been saying that since the beginning."
She criticised Meadows for likening the coronavirus to the flu, according to a pool report.
"This is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of America," she said.
Biden and Harris have been hammering US President Donald Trump over his handling of the pandemic, which has seen the US suffer roughly one-fifth the world death total though its population is only four per cent the total.
The pandemic, which has left millions of Americans jobless, remains front and centre in the presidential race.
The disease has also reached deep inside the White House itself.
The spokesman for the vice president said Pence and his wife had tested negative and added that Pence would continue criss-crossing the country in the final days of the campaign.
The White House cited Pence's status as an "essential worker" as justification for his campaign travel despite his exposure to Short.
READ: Trump says he is 'immune' from COVID-19
CNN interviewer Jake Tapper pressed Meadows about Pence, who heads the White House coronavirus task force, seemingly flaunting guidelines of the federal Centers for Disease Control by travelling and not self-quarantining after exposure to Short.
"I can tell you he is wearing a mask and will be wearing a mask today," Meadows said. "Obviously, when you have an exposure you have to take additional mitigation factors."
Harris stayed off the campaign trail briefly after a top aide tested positive.