Sen. Chris Murphy accused President Donald Trump of undermining his own experts after members of the federal coronavirus task force offered a dire forecast for national infection rates on Tuesday.
The option of reopening safely while following prevention guidelines is "why it's so impossible for us to watch the experts who testified today say all the right things, and then have the President on a daily basis undermine them," the Connecticut Democrat told CNN's Anderson Cooper.
"It's almost as if we have two different federal governments, two parallel governments today," Murphy added.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and their parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, are "saying keep your distance, keep things closed until it's safe to reopen, wear masks," the senator continued. "And then you have the President undermining them on a daily basis."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a coronavirus task force member who's the country's top infectious disease expert, told lawmakers on Capitol Hill earlier in the day that he wouldn't be surprised if the US sees new cases of coronavirus rising to 100,000 a day.
He and CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield stressed the importance of wearing masks. Fauci said that "we recommend masks for everyone" and "masks are extremely important" and Redfield singled out younger Americans in particular to deliver a message that they are not exempt from the necessity of wearing a mask.
But Trump has continued to defy health recommendations and has been reluctant to be seen wearing a mask in public. He recently told the Wall Street Journal that masks are "a double-edged sword" and suggested that masks sometimes are being worn as a political statement, rather than a health precaution, to show disapproval of him. Experts say wearing a mask or other face covering could reduce the transmission of Covid-19 by as much as 50%.
Murphy on Tuesday called Trump's actions "so unforgivable because we have a pathway for states to reopen, we have a game plan that we have shown people in the Northeast can be effective here."
"Ultimately this will be the President's political undoing, because Americans are not going to be distracted from the issues that dominate their lives so long as the infection rate is so high," Murphy added.
Months of strict shutdown rules, widespread testing and imperfect attempts at contact tracing have brought cases under control in the New York tri-state area and the region -- a 180-degree flip from just a few months ago, when the tri-state area, and New York City in particular, was the epicenter of the pandemic.
There are more than 2.6 million reported cases of coronavirus nationwide, according to Johns Hopkins University, and new cases in at least 36 states are trending upward compared with the previous week.