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‘Please Don’t Distort’: HHS Sec Azar, Jake Tapper Clash Over Why Virus ‘Hitting Our Country So Much Harder’

CNN’s Jake Tapper grilled Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar on whether the Trump administration’s pandemic response or the collective health of the American population are the reason why the coronavirus has been fatal for so many people.

Tapper led the interview by pressing Azar on America’s Covid-19 test numbers, and why did Trump claim last week that America is “back” even though a vaccine doesn’t exist and people still need to take precautions.

“I mean, we still need to wear masks,” Tapper said. “Can we have weddings or large gatherings? Will grandparents be able to visit new grandchildren? How are we back?”

After Azar argued that Trump was speaking to a broader point that “everything does not depend on a vaccine,” Tapper continued to drill down by noting that the HHS secretary predicted a coronavirus low risk in January, yet America now has 30 percent of the world’s officially reported cases.

“Did the U.S. government fail?” He asked. “Why is this virus hitting our country so much harder than it’s hitting other countries?”

As Azar defended the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic, he and Tapper went back and forth over the connotations that approximately 90,000 Americans have died from the pandemic.

“Every death is tragic, but we have maintained our health care burden within the capacity of our system to actually deal with it,” Azar said. “Unfortunately the American population is a very diverse — its a population with significant unhealthy comorbidities that do make many individuals in our communities particularly at risk here because of significant underlying disease, health disparities and disease comorbidities and that is an unfortunate legacy in our health care system that we certainly do need to address.”

From there, Tapper gave Azar a chance to clarify because “I know that’s not what you meant” while suggesting that the coronavirus killed so many Americans because “we’re unhealthier than the rest of the world.” When Azar acknowledged that Americans have a “significantly disproportionate amount” of comorbidities, Tapper countered “but that doesn’t mean it’s the fault of the American people when the administration didn’t take adequate steps if February.”

Azar’s response:

Please don’t distort, Jake. This is not about fault its about simple epidemiology and stating that if we have hypertension, if we have diabetes, we present with greater risk of severe complications from this coronavirus. That’s all I was saying, and you know that. This is not — one doesn’t blame an individual for their health conditions. That would absurd. It’s simply a statement that we do have greater risk profiles here in the United States.

Watch above, via CNN.

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