As Vice President Pence takes the debate stage tonight, he will have to answer for his role as chair of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. When President Trump announced this position in late February he said, “I’m having everybody report to Mike … Mike will report to me.” On Pence and Trump’s watch, the United States has had the most coronavirus cases and the most coronavirus deaths in the world. Florida has been at the epicenter of this crisis, as hundreds of thousands remain out of work and more 720,000 have been infected since late February.
Vice President Pence made several visits to Florida as head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, routinely flouting public health guidelines, misleading Floridians to downplay the threat of the pandemic, and making promises the Trump administration failed to keep.
Here is a timeline of VP Pence’s most notable Florida trips:
February 28th: 0 confirmed COVID cases
Days after being named head of the coronavirus task force, Floridians were charged $25,000-per-plate to dine with the Vice President for a high dollar fundraiser in Longboat Key, Florida
May 20th: 47,471 confirmed COVID cases
Pence visited Orlando to partake in a premature victory lap with DeSantis, during which they held a maskless photo op in Orlando. During this visit, Pence declared that Florida had “flattened the curve” and DeSantis claimed he had “succeeded.” Dr. Fauci later said Florida “jumped over a couple of checkpoints” and reopened too soon.
May 30th: 55,000 confirmed COVID cases
Pence attended the Space X Demo 2 Launch and his only reference to coronavirus was that the nation was taking its “first steps to reopen and recover from an unprecedented pandemic.”
July 2nd: 169,106 confirmed COVID cases
As the state broke records for daily increases in confirmed COVID cases, Pence visited Tampa to stump for Trump after cancelling a “Great American Comeback” bus tour across Florida.
Pence promised that “We’re going to make sure that Florida has the resources, the medicines, the testing, and the supplies to meet this moment.” Not even two weeks later, South Florida hospitals reported supply shortages and three months later, hospitals continued to experience supply shortages.
July 8th: 223,783 confirmed COVID cases
At a White House coronavirus task force briefing, Pence claimed that there were “early indications” that Florida was flattening the curve, despite the positivity rate continuing to rise. His remarks were later denounced as “obvious propaganda” by the head of the Scripps Research Translational Institute.
July 11th: 254,511 confirmed COVID cases
Pence flouted local mask mandate for a private meeting with the Jacksonville RNC Host Committee. He did this as cases in Duval County began spiking and several Northeast Florida hospitals reinstated visitation restrictions.
July 27th: 432,747 confirmed COVID cases
In Miami, Pence touted the “the favorable trends that are beginning to emerge here in Florida are a great tribute to the strong leadership of your governor and his administration…” The positivity rate at the time was 11.39%.
August 5th: 500,000 confirmed COVID cases
As Florida announced a record-high weekly death average and added the highest number of coronavirus hospitalizations in a single day, Pence again returned for a crowded indoor campaign event where “as the event progressed inside the ballroom some attendees removed masks to speak to each other.”