Vice President Mike Pence defends President Donald Trump and his in-person rallies amid rise in coronavirus cases throughout the US.
Pence was asked by a reporter during a White House coronavirus task force briefing about the in-person rallies of Trump that attracted tens of thousands of the president’s supporters.
“The freedom of speech, the right to peaceably assemble, is enshrined in the constitution of the United States,” replied Pence, who leads the task force.
“And we have an election coming up this fall,” he added. “We still want to give people the freedom to participate in the political process, and we respect that.”
Meanwhile, another reporter asked Pence about allowing public gatherings while asking people to observe state and local social distancing guidelines.
“Even in a health crisis, the American people don’t forfeit our constitutional rights,” Pence said. “I think it’s really important that we recognize how important freedom and personal responsibility to this entire equation.”
Moreover, Pence said that he and Trump advocate “taking proper steps” in their approach to conducting rallies amid the coronavirus pandemic. During their previous rally in Oklahoma over the weekend, participants were given masks, hand sanitizer and temperature checks before going to the Tulsa arena where Trump made a speech. However, mask wearing was not mandatory.
The vice president stressed that the participants underwent screening at recent events, and noted that Oklahoma’s positivity rate for coronavirus cases seems to be on the decline as of Friday. “That’s a great testament to the fact that people are using common sense, they’re being responsible,” he said.
Over 2.4 million coronavirus cases and at least 124,468 deaths have been reported in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Pence said at the briefing Friday that “we now have seen cases rise precipitously across the South.”
“If there’s one message that comes through today I hope it is saying to younger Americans in these states, and in these counties in particular, that they are a big part of the numbers that we are seeing in new cases,” Pence said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, announced that the US remains in the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Pence, it was “encouraging” to know that almost half of the new infections reported are in people under 35 years old, as that age group is less likely to be severely hit by the virus than older demographics.
However, Fauci warned that young people can still become a spreader of the virus.
“People are infecting other people and ultimately you will infect someone who’s vulnerable,” Fauci said at the briefing.
“If you get infected and spread the infection, even though you do not get sick, you are part of the process of the dynamics of an outbreak in what you might be propagating,” he said. ”[And] inadvertently is infecting someone who then infects someone who then is someone who is vulnerable. That could be your grandmother, your grandfather, your sick uncle, who winds up dying.”