The country’s new point man on coronavirus response, Vice President Mike Pence, is expected to travel to Florida on Friday — but not on a public health mission.
Instead, Pence is headed to the moneyed barrier island town of Longboat Key, where he’ll be the main attraction for Congressional Republicans in one of their biggest fundraisers of the year.
It’s $2,500 to get in the door and $5,000 to take a picture with the vice president, according to an invite obtained by the Tampa Bay Times. And $25,000 buys dinner with him, too.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported Wednesday that the Friday night fundraiser is at the waterfront home of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Republican who served with Pence in Congress. The report was published hours before Trump tapped Pence to quarterback the coronavirus response.
The event, hosted by the Florida Republican congressional delegation, benefits the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to the invite. A spokeswoman for the committee confirmed the fundraiser is still on.
Earlier in the day, Pence will also address the Club for Growth in Palm Beach, according to the Palm Beach Post.
President Donald Trump surprised many (including, a report says, his own health secretary) when he tapped Pence to lead the government effort to contain the highly contagious and fast-spreading coronavirus. The worldwide outbreak has shut down entire cities in Asia, halted some international travel and caused a downturn in U.S. markets as Wall Street braced for prolonged economic impact from the virus.
Trump on Wednesday downplayed the risks of the outbreak and contradicted information provided by his administration’s contagious disease experts about the readiness of a vaccine and other facts. Pence “has a certain talent for this," Trump said after declaring his vice president would oversee the response.
However, Pence’s new post has resurfaced criticism for his response to a 2015 HIV epidemic while governor of Indiana.
There are 60 reported cases of coronavirus in the U.S., including one case of unknown origin, though none are in Florida. Less than 100 miles away from the Pence fundraiser, two Boston Red Sox prospects from Taiwan are under quarantine because of the coronavirus scare.
UPDATE: A spokeswoman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he will meet with Pence in Palm Beach to discuss coronavirus response coordination.
On Thursday, DeSantis cautioned against panic but declined to say how many people in Florida have been tested for the virus.