TAMPA, Fla. — Vice President Mike Pence visited Tampa on Thursday, meeting with Gov. Ron DeSantis and leaders with the University of South Florida and Tampa General Hospital.
Thursday's visit was all about discussing Florida's response to the coronavirus pandemic, particularly about the state's weeks of spikes in new cases.
Earlier this year, Pence was named chair of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and he has been a regular part of COVID-19 related press briefings.
The Florida Department of Health on Thursday reported a record 10,109 new COVID-19 cases, the highest number reported in one day since tracking began in March. It was also the first time the state reported more than 10,000 new cases in a day.
Nearly 70,000 test results were turned in, but the positivity rate is 14.59 percent.
"We are testing a lot more, but we also have a greater percentage of people testing positive," DeSantis said Thursday.
DeSantis said Floridians, both younger people and those 65 and up, to avoid the three Cs: "Closed spaces, large crowds and close contact."
DeSantis has reiterated in recent weeks that he doesn't plan to make any changes to the state's reopening plan or enact a statewide face mask mandate. He's also continued to point to increased testing and jumps in the number of younger people testing positive for the weeks of spikes in new cases.
"We really are here to assure the people of Florida...as we see the rising cases...we're going to do whatever it takes," Pence said, noting the federal government is considering a request from the state about getting additional medical personnel to help.
Both DeSantis and Pence addressed the month of spikes in new COVID-19 cases, reiterating their belief that Florida and the country are in a better place to fight the number of rising cases than we were at the beginning of the pandemic.
"Because of all we've done as a country, because of President Trump's leadership...we are in a much better place to confront the rising cases that are impacting here in Florida and across the country," Pence said.
Dr. Deborah Birx, also a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, spoke after Pence, saying Floridians have a "critical role to play over the next two to three weeks to stop the spread."
Birx also asked anyone who has participated in a large gathering in the last four weeks to get tested.
"Please get tested, please wear a mask, please do all the hygiene guidance," Birx said.
Birx also talked about working on implementing pool testing in the Tampa Bay area, which involves testing groups of people like a family with one test then following up and re-testing individuals and doing contact tracing. Birx said this type of testing can be beneficial in testing families, neighborhoods and groups of students.
"This particular county (Hillsborough) is a great place to start," Birx said. "We think this is a critical breakthrough."
At the end of the news conference, a reported asked the vice president about his thoughts on the Republican National Convention coming to Jacksonville in late August. Specifically, he was asked if he would recommend anyone who is older to not attend the RNC.
"We're excited about coming to Jacksonville," Pence said, noting he's seen "very sophisticated plans to ensure it's a safe and healthy environment."
Pence did not give a recommendation for who are older on attending or not attending the RNC, but said the "job right now is to everything in our power to support the efforts of your governor...to bring these (case) numbers down."
"We really do believe because we are in such a better place today...we're going to make sure that the people of Florida can rest easy," Pence said.
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