Mike Pence's Superb Coronavirus Response

Ever since President Donald Trump tapped Vice-President Mike Pence to lead the White House Coronavirus Task Force at the end of February, he has presided over more than 340 briefings including 35 governors’ briefings, with over 156,000 state, local, and tribal participants.  He has discussed the federal government’s strategy of deploying financial resources, supplies, and technical assistance.  He has coordinated the delivery of critical PPE, and helped ramp up testing for states, localities, and tribes.  He has stressed the importance of implementing best practices for slowing the spread of the virus, and has spoken at great length about the safety procedures and guidelines for reopening the country.  He has discussed strategies that will allow students to safely return to school. He has provided county-by-county summaries, analysis, and recommendations to governors, and has updated them on the progress of vaccines and therapeutics.  Yet, even after all the time that Pence has spent working to keep the country safe, the vice-president’s commendable effort has largely gone unnoticed.  Instead, it has been overshadowed by a media that has politicized Trump’s handling of the virus in a brazen attempt to undermine his support with the American people.

Throughout the pandemic, the vice-president has clearly and carefully articulated the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force’s strategy to the public, during press conferences and at other public speaking events. He has maintained a calming presence and has struck the right tone between empathetic and optimistic.  At a press briefing on June 30th with members of the Coronavirus Task Force at the United States Public Health Service Headquarters, Pence said, “Our message to every American in the states that are most affected by rising cases and rising positivity rates is: We are with you.  We are working with the governors in your state to ensure that they have the resources and the support to meet this moment and provide the level of healthcare that any one of us would expect for a member of our family.”

At another press briefing on July 8th, at the Department of Education, Pence spoke of his respect and admiration for teachers across the country who had to quickly learn how to do virtual learning on the fly, without any formal training.  He also expressed his appreciation for parents who continued working while also helping their children keep up with their assignments.  “From early in this pandemic, teachers learned how to do the distance teaching and did a remarkable job, oftentimes having to care for their own families and make sure their own children’s studies were happening.  So to all of our -- America’s teachers, we say thank you.  We also want to say thank you to the parents -- the parents who had to step in and become educators for all of their kids.  It’s really been remarkable when you see what our kids have been able to accomplish during this difficult time.”

The vice-president also addressed the importance of schools reopening for in-person learning, and cited health recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.  “It’s absolutely essential that we get our kids back into a classroom for in-person learning.  We can’t let our kids fall behind academically... this is not just simply about making sure our kids are learning and they’re advancing academically, but for their mental health, for their wellbeing, for their physical health, for nutrition.  We got to get our kids back to school.”

Over the last seven months, the vice-president has remained focused solely on putting the safety of the American people first, and has ensured that all fifty states and localities have received the medical supplies and equipment that they needed.  It is for this reason that he has received praise from Republican and Democrat governors alike.  "If you didn't have a scorecard, you wouldn't have known who was a Republican, who was a Democrat.  The vice president was engaged," Republican governor Mike DeWine of Ohio said back in April.  When schools in Ohio were shut down, DeWine still wanted to provide food to families of lower-income children who relied on school lunches.  Pence responded immediately to DeWine’s request and was able to bypass bureaucratic hurdles to expedite the process.  "We had to get a waiver. And the vice president jumped in, we got a waiver within less than 24 hours.  So they have been there when I've got a specific request." DeWine said.

Democrat governor Jay Inslee of Washington, who has frequently engaged in verbal spats with the president, has said he has a "really good working relationship" with Pence.  “He has responded to my questions in a timely fashion. He's called me. We've had quite a number of conversations, and I think that he's been very helpful to the process.” Inslee said.  Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York was praising Pence and Trump’s efforts before criticizing the Trump Administration’s response became a regular occurrence.  Back in March, Cuomo said, “Fairness dictates that kudos where kudos are due.  Here the vice president and the president responded very quickly so I want to thank them for that.”

During his RNC speech, the vice-president hit all of the right notes, and expressed empathy for those who succumbed to the virus.  “After all the sacrifice in this year like no other, all the hardship, we're finding our way forward again, but tonight our hearts are with all of the families who have lost loved ones and have family members still struggling with serious illness. In this country we mourn with those who mourn, we grieve with those who grieve.  And this night, I know that millions of Americans will pause and pray for God's comfort for each of you." Pence also expressed his deepest gratitude for healthcare and frontline workers.  "Our country doesn't get through such a time unless its people find strength within. The response of doctors, nurses, first responders, farmers, factory workers, truckers and everyday Americans who put the health and safety of their neighbors first has been nothing short of heroic," he said.

Over the last seven months the vice president has delivered for the country.  He has worked around the clock with other members of the Task Force to keep us safe and defeat the virus.  He has repeatedly praised healthcare and frontline workers who rightfully deserve to be recognized for their contributions.   Now it is time for the vice-president to finally receive his due for a job well done.

Image: Gage Skidmore