Vice President Mike Pence is canceling campaign events in Florida and Arizona as COVID-19 cases in both states smash records.
Pence is backing out of the scheduled appearances this coming week just a day after he crowed at a White House press briefing that the nation is “flattening the curve” in COVID-19 cases, which is not true.
The U.S. set a new record in the number of new coronavirus cases in a single day, reaching more than 42,000 Saturday. Florida reported nearly 9,600 new cases Saturday morning, and Arizona tallied an additional 3,951 cases, and shattered its hospitalization record.
As of Friday, the U.S. seven-day average of new cases increased more than 41% compared with a week ago.
Pence is skipping appearances “out of an abundance of caution” due to the case spike in the states, according to the Trump campaign.
The scheduled events were part of the campaign’s “Faith in America” tour, targeting evangelical voters. They included a stop in Tucson on Tuesday, and a Florida bus tour Thursday with appearances in Sarasota and Lake Wales at an event organized by the pro-Trump group PAC America First Policies.
Pence still plans to travel to Florida, Arizona and Texas this coming week to meet with the states’ governors and their healthcare officials for a “ground report” concerning spiking cases int he states, as he announced Friday.
He’s also still scheduled to speak at First Baptist Church in Dallas on Sunday as part of a “Celebrate Freedom” event, then will meet with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R). The website for the event says that “masks and social distancing are strongly encouraged while on the campus of First Baptist Dallas.”
Florida and Texas have shut down bars in a desperate bid to stem the exploding number of coronavirus in their state. The Miami-Dade County mayor is also shutting down all area beaches over the July 4th holiday from July 3-7.
“We opened up too fast,” Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said on the “Today” show Saturday. “We opened up bars, we opened up nightclubs, and it’s the combination of all that that has led us to where we are today.”
Jha said the nation opened up businesses and gatherings while Americans were still struggling with a large number of COVID-19 cases — without the testing and system of contact tracing necessary to do it safely.
A CBS News reporter suggested Friday to Pence at a press briefing of the coronavirus task force that the campaign was “part of the problem” battling COVID-19 because no one wears masks or practices safe social distancing to help curb the spread of the disease.
Pence responded: “I want to remind you again that free speech and the right to peacefully assemble is enshrined in the Constitution” — even though wearing a mask and following social distancing guidelines do not prohibit free speech. “Even in a health crisis the American people don’t forfeit our constitutional rights,” he added.