Vice President Mike Pence is returning to Florida on Thursday as the state deals with one of the country’s worst outbreaks of the coronavirus.
Pence will meet with Gov. Ron DeSantis in Tampa, where the two will discuss “the efforts the state is making to combat COVID-19,” according to his office. They will visit Signature Flight Support near Tampa International Airport around 1:45 p.m.
Pence last visited Florida in May when the state’s outlook was much different. The rate of new cases was declining and parts of the economy were starting to reopen. Pence met with business leaders from the state’s tourism industry and boasted that Florida was “leading the way to open up America again.” Before, he and DeSantis dined — without masks — at an Orlando-area restaurant.
Since then, the state has seen a sharp rise in new coronavirus cases and a steady increase in the death toll. The outbreak is spreading faster here than almost anywhere in the country, public health experts warn. DeSantis has responded by barring the consumption of alcohol at bars and urging residents to wear face coverings in public.
It was during Pence’s last visit that DeSantis lashed out at reporters and public health experts in an on-camera exchange that has since come back to dog the Republican leader. Standing alongside Pence, DeSantis declared that Florida “succeeded and I don’t think people want to recognize it because it challenges their narrative, it challenges their assumption.”
“You got a lot of people in your profession who waxed poetically for weeks and weeks about how Florida was going to be just like New York,” DeSantis. “Well, hell, we’re eight weeks away from that and it hasn’t happened.”
Pence and DeSantis will again speak with reporters after they meet.