Q&A with Vice President Mike Pence on Florida’s coronavirus response, schools reopening

Vice President Mike Pence visited the University of Miami on Monday to announce the school is participating in a clinical trial to test a coronavirus vaccine.

News 6 anchor Erik Von Ancken spoke with Pence after the announcement during a one-on-one. The full interview is available to watch at the top of this story.

Below is a transcript of their interview, edited for clarity.

Von Ancken: I know President Trump is a big proponent of getting kids back in school, so is Governor DeSantis, he and the Department of Education have ordered that all schools reopen brick and mortar in some way shape or form by the end of August. At the same time as you know we’re in the middle of a surge here in Florida and we heard from a lot of parents and teachers who say they’re not ready. Should we be sending our kids back to school and is it safe for all of those parents asking that question and teachers?

Pence: Well first let me just say that it’s telling, the data around the country, one thing we know for sure and that is the risk of Coronavirus to the kids is very low. It’s very low. And the only thing we know for sure is that there’s a real cost to children not being in the classroom receiving in person learning.

Vice President Mike Pence visited the University of Miami on Monday to announce the school is participating in a clinical trial to test a coronavirus vaccine.

But my pledge to the people of Florida, to parents and grandparents who may have concerns, is that we’re going to make sure Florida and every state across the country has the resources to be able to bring the kids back to school safely. And we know there’s additional cost, it’s one of the reasons that President Trump is calling for additional $105 billion dollars from Congress.

It’s best for a kids to get them back to school, it’s best for college kids to get back on campus, start learning again and we really do believe we can do it in a safe and responsible way.

Von Ancken: The last few days, as you mentioned, have been hopeful in the State of Florida but the last few weeks have have not been. Florida has now the most number of cases in the country just behind California, we’ve just passed New York, some hospitals as you probably know and some ICU’s are at capacity and overwhelmed. How do we get this under control here in Florida?

Pence: Well all of us have a role to play. Practicing personal hygiene, washing your hands. Wearing a mask wherever State and local authorities indicate it’s appropriate.

Von Ancken: Certain counties [in Florida] require wearing masks; others do not. The Governor refused to order a statewide mask mandate. You mentioned it - we’ve seen widely-publicized research that masks are effective, they have been throughout the course of history. Do you feel the Governor should require a statewide mask mandate? A lot of people believe this would help the surge?

Pence: Well, from early in this Coronavirus pandemic our approach at the White House has been to trust Governors and trust state and local health authorities.

Von Ancken: Would you like to see a statewide mask mandate?

Pence: Well, I think it’s always a good idea to wear masks. But I think for each and every state it just depends on the circumstances. And the Sunshine State is such a big state with so many people in such an extraordinary diversity of geography and interest I think we’ll just keep deferring to Gov. DeSantis’ decision.

Von Ancken: Did Florida reopen too quickly? Should Florida close again?

Pence: Well, let me say that what’s happened across the Sunbelt started happening almost a month and a half after Florida started opening up again. You have places like Georgia and Arizona and Texas and California. There are many theories about what happened - it may have been large-scale protests that took place over and around Memorial Day weekend, it may have been Memorial Day Weekend gatherings.

We also think it’s important to open up again in a safe and responsible way ... We believe that we can do that. We literally are making progress against this pandemic.

Von Ancken: You mentioned some jobs are coming back, absolutely, but we’ve heard from a lot of people who say that their jobs have not returned. The tourist industry as you know in Florida has been decimated. A lot of people here tell us they’re scared, they’re worried. What would you like to say to those folks specifically?

Pence: I would say to people all across Florida and America that we’re going to get through this. A day like today one here in Florida we launched the very first phase 3 clinical trial of our vaccine.

About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.