Vice President Mike Pence on Friday defended President Donald Trump’s campaign rallies as the right to peacefully assemble and part of the freedom of speech as he issued the reminder: ‘We have an election coming up this fall.’
In the first public briefing of the White House Coronavirus Task Force since April, Pence was grilled about how he and the task force could recommend to people they listen to local officials for guidance on the coronavirus pandemic when the campaign disregarded advice from Tulsa experts on holding Saturday’s rally there.
‘Well, I want to remind you again that freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble is enshrined in the constitution of the United States. Even in the health crisis, the American people don’t forfeit our constitutional rights,’ Pence said in response.
‘Working with state officials, as we did in Oklahoma and as we did in Arizona, we are creating settings where people can choose to participate in the political process. We will continue to do that,’ he added.
And he pointed out: ‘We have an election coming up this fall.’
Vice President Mike Pence defended President Donald Trump’s campaign rallies as the right to peacefully assemble
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, encouraged all Americans to take part of safety measures – including social distancing and wearing a face mask
The briefing from Pence and Coronavirus Task Force members Dr. Deborah Birx, Dr. Tony Fauci and Health and Human Service Secretary Alexander Azar came as the United States saw a spike in coronavirus infections as the country began to reopen.
Infections rose across the United States by at least 39,818 on Thursday, marking the worst day since the virus first hit the U.S
Some states – Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Florida among them – put the pause in their reopenings as their COVID-19 numbers went up.
‘Our focus today is to make sure that, in those areas in the country were receiving a significant, not only an increase in cases but an increase in positivity levels, that the American people know just how important it is to listen to what they are state and local health officials are directing them to do,’ the vice president said.
But the Trump campaign disregarded such local warnings in regards to the campaign rally in Tulsa on Saturday – its first since March. Health officials in Tulsa urged the campaign to postpone the event, noting the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma. Trump and Pence both spoke at the rally.
Tulsa health department director Dr. Bruce Dart warned anyone attending it faced ‘an increased risk’ of contracting the coronavirus. He also admitted he’d like to see the rally postponed but, since it wasn’t going to be, then officials would deal with the fallout.
‘I recommended we postpone it until it’s safer,’ he said. ‘If we could push it back to when the data tells it’s safer, that was my personal recommendation, that is what I’d personally like to see happen. It’s here so let’s focus on staying safe while it’s here.’
The Trump campaign emphasized the safety measures it had put into place – including temperature checks and handing out face masks. But attendees were not required to wear the masks.
Additionally, eight members of the advance team, including members of the Secret Service, tested positive for the coronvirus. After the rally, several members of the campaign staff self-quarantined as a precaution.
Trump held a similar event in Phoenix on Tuesday when he addressed a group of 3,000 students – an event that had the feel of a campaign rally.
Most attendees at the Tulsa and Phoenix events did not wear masks and did not social distance.
President Donald Trump held his first campaign rally since March on Saturday even as officials in Tulsa warned against and the campaign staff self-isolated after it
President Trump also spoke to 3,000 students in Phoenix on Tuesday at an event that had the feel of a campaign rally
Before the Tulsa rally, Fauci said he would not go, pointing out his age put him in a high risk category.
And, at a congressional hearing on Tuesday, Fauci offered this advice: ‘Plan A: Don’t go in a crowd. Plan B: If you do, make sure you wear a mask.’
Fauci, at Friday’s Coronavirus Task Force briefing, encouraged all Americans to take part of safety measures – including social distancing and wearing a face mask, pointing out even those at low risk from getting seriously sick from COVID could transmit to someone in a high risk category.
‘If we don’t extinguish the outbreak, sooner or later, even ones that are doing well are going to be vulnerable to the spread. So, we need to take that into account, because we are all in it together, and the only way we are going to end it is by ending it together,’ the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said.
When Fauci finished talking and was walking from podium, Pence grabbed his arm and told him ‘well said.’
Pence spent Friday’s briefing trying to spin the ‘remarkable progress’ the administration has made in fighting the virus even as the numbers showed a different story.
‘We slowed the spread. We flattened the curve. We saved lives,’ he said.
Asked by DailyMail.com whether he expected the death rate to rise, Pence responded: ‘Our hope and our prayer is it’s not the case.’
‘One is too many. We grieve the loss of every American life,’ Pence added.