Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday blamed China for putting the U.S. “behind the curve” in trying to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
In a CNBC interview, Pompeo said it has proven “incredibly frustrating” to work with the Chinese government to obtain data on the coronavirus, “which will ultimately be the solution to both getting the vaccine and attacking this risk.”
“Remember, this is the Wuhan coronavirus that’s caused this, and the information that we got at the front end of this thing wasn’t perfect and has led us now to a place where much of the challenge we face today has put us behind the curve,” Pompeo said in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
“That’s not the way infectious disease doctors tell me it should work. It’s not the way America works with transparency and openness and the sharing of the information that needs to take place.”
Global cases of COVID-19 surpassed 100,000 on Friday, with at least 3,280 deaths. The vast majority of cases are still in China, where the virus originated in December.
The coronavirus death toll in the U.S. has risen to at least 12, with more than 225 cases reported around the country. California and Washington state have the largest number of the cases. Washington state has seen 11 of the fatalities. The other was in California.
Pompeo pushed back on any suggestion that the global outbreak of the coronavirus could have originated outside of China, a narrative pushed by the Chinese state-run media.
“No less authority than the Chinese Communist Party said it came from Wuhan,” Pompeo said. “So don’t take Mike Pompeo’s word for it. We have pretty high confidence that we know where this began.”
“We have high confidence, too, that there was information that could have been made available more quickly and data that could have been provided and shared among health professionals across the world,” Pompeo added. “It’s most unfortunate.”
Pompeo said he believed in the U.S. government’s ability to appropriately respond to the coronavirus. “I’m confident we can handle it here. I’m confident that we’ll handle it better than any nation in the world.”
Earlier in the outbreak, some people raised concerns over state and local capacity to test for the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later altered its testing guidelines to allow more clinician across the U.S. to test for the virus.
Pompeo said his work on combating the virus has focused more on America’s response abroad, but he complimented domestic efforts to increase testing capacity.
“They’re trying to get the private sector ramped up to get the rate right so that we can do all the testing that’s needed,” Pompeo said. “We have taken this incredibly seriously. We’ll continue to do that. The testing kits are one element of America’s effort to reduce risk.”
Asked about specifically early missteps from the CDC, which sent potentially problematic test kits to public health labs around the country, Pompeo said, “We’ve got to get it right.”
By Kevin Stankiewicz