Pence’s Arizona, Florida Events Scrapped as Virus Cases Jump

Vice President Mike Pence has postponed campaign events scheduled for Arizona and Florida next week as coronavirus cases jump in those states, said a senior Trump campaign official.

Pence, the leader of the White House coronavirus task force, still plans to travel to both states, as well as to Texas on Sunday, to meet with governors and health care officials, a White House official said.

Another Trump campaign official said that Pence’s campaign events were postponed out of an abundance of caution.

All three states have been among the hardest hit as a wave of Covid-19 cases crashes across the Sun Belt, weeks after the worst of the virus subsided in states like New York, New Jersey and Illinois.

Florida had a record 8,924 new cases on Friday, Texas saw 5,706 and Arizona had 3,378, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Republican-run states were among the first to lift stay-at-home orders, which were designed to slow the virus’ spread, in their leaders’ effort to restart local economies.

“Coronavirus cases in Florida and Arizona are spiking thanks to Trump’s ineffective response to this crisis -- and the fact they were trying to hold unsafe events in these states at all is just another demonstration of their incompetence and bad judgment,” Democratic National Committee spokesman David Bergstein said in a statement.

The vice president said at a coronavirus task force press briefing on Friday, its first in two months, that he was traveling to Arizona, Florida and Texas in order to get a “ground report” from officials there.

On Sunday, Pence is scheduled to meet with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and talk to media, after speaking at a “Celebrate Freedom Rally” at a Baptist church in Dallas -- an event his office said will honor “America’s freedom and spiritual foundation.”

Pence was due to speak at events in Tucson, Arizona, and Sarasota, Florida, later in the week as part of the Trump campaign’s “Faith in America” tour. The administration’s public health experts have warned against holding large public gatherings, but President Donald Trump has rejected their advice, speaking at rallies in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Phoenix, Arizona, in the past week.

When asked about the decision to continue holding large events despite the health risk, Pence on Friday said that “the freedom of speech, the right to peaceably assemble, is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States.”

“We have an election coming up this fall, and President Trump and I believe that taking proper steps -- as we’ve created screening at recent events -- and giving people the very best counsel that we have, we still want to give people the freedom to participate in the political process. And we respect that,” Pence said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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