Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday sidestepped questions about whether he would recommend that vulnerable people not attend the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville next month if COVID-19 cases in Florida continue to surge.
“Let me say, we are excited about coming to Jacksonville,” Pence told reporters in Tampa at a press conference with Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday. “I was at a meeting not long ago when I heard about some very sophisticated plans to make sure it is a safe and healthy environment.”
Pence’s visit to the Sunshine State coincided with a new single-day record for coronavirus cases in Florida, as the state Department of Health on Thursday reported 10,100 new positive COVID-19 cases. Florida has recorded a minimum of 5,000 cases for each of the last nine days.
The ballooning case numbers have heightened concerns about Florida’s plans to host the Republican National Convention at the 15,000-capacity VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville in late August. Pence noted that the novel coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease known as COVID-19, has soared among younger adults in Florida.
The risk “of a serious outcome with the coronavirus is fairly small” for young adults, said Pence, the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. “But no young person would ever want to unintentionally infect a mom, a dad, a grandmother, a grandfather, or an elderly friend,” he added.
While the number of COVID-19 cases continues to skyrocket in the state, Pence praised DeSantis for “the prudent steps that you are taking to slow the spread here in Florida.” DeSantis’ meeting with Pence on Thursday also included U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Deborah Birx and Tampa-area health-care officials.
The vice president acknowledged that COVID-19 is continuing to spread throughout Florida at a record pace. “No one wants to see these numbers where they are or want to see these numbers go up,” Pence said. He urged people to follow social-distancing guidelines and take “personal responsibility” to help curb the disease.
“We’ll do what other parts of the country have done. We’ll flatten the curve, we’ll slow the spread, we’ll save lives along the way and we’ll make it possible for great events to happen here in Florida, not just the RNC, but make it possible for Florida to once again be that great destination for so many Americans who love to come and enjoy the Sunshine State,” Pence said.
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