How Mike Pence slowed down the coronavirus response

By | August 26, 2020

Politico reports:

Mike Pence had just accepted the biggest assignment of his political life, overseeing the nation’s response to the emerging Covid-19 virus, when White House officials confronted the vice president with an urgent question: what to do about the cruise ships?

It was the last weekend of February, and the nation’s top health officials had concluded that cruise lines were a major factor in spreading the virus — each vessel a potential hothouse of invisible infections. Hundreds of passengers already had been sickened on cruises; efforts to evacuate Americans from two virus-infested ships had become logistical nightmares; and in the health experts’ emerging consensus, the Centers for Disease Control needed to issue an immediate “no-sail” order, keeping ships in port.

The looming decision would test the vice president, pulled off the campaign trail and tapped by President Donald Trump to lead the coronavirus task force in a major shake-up of the U.S. response. “Mike is going to be in charge, and Mike will report back to me,” Trump said on Feb. 26 — before a single reported Covid-19 fatality in the United States. “He’s got a certain talent for this.”

But weighing the cruise ship question, Pence hesitated to act. The White House’s economic experts were worried about preemptively shuttering an industry that employed or subsidized hundreds of thousands of Americans — a message echoed by the cruise industry itself, which drives billions of dollars to the key swing state of Florida and is led by executives close to Trump. [Continue reading…]

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