WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Vice President Mike Pence spoke about preparations for the coronavirus outbreak during a visit to Palm Beach County.
The vice president, who was named the head of the government’s coronavirus response, held a Coronavirus Response and Preparedness meeting alongside Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at Palm Beach International Airport, at around 3 p.m, Friday.
Pence, who was named the Trump administration’s point man on the public health crisis earlier this week, attempted to strike a comforting note.
“The threat of the coronavirus spreading in the United States remains low,” he said. “People of this country can be assured that we’re ready. We’re ready for any eventuality.”
More than 83,000 cases of COVID-19, the formal name for the virus, have occurred since it emerged in China.
The illness is characterized by fever and coughing and in serious cases shortness of breath or pneumonia.
Friday’s meeting took place in the middle of a pre-planned trip to South Florida for the vice president. Hours earlier, he spoke to a conservative economic policy group.
Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees said that although 700 people have been monitored because of varying risk factors, just 15 have been tested, with negative results. More than 150 patients are still being monitored.
“They’re asked to take their temperature twice a day,” said Rivkees. “They’re really asked to limit their contacts with other individuals out of the household, at least a six feet distance, and if somebody develops a cough, a fever, then let us know, and then we will have those individuals evaluated.”
State officials had hoped to conduct the tests locally, but they said, some of the kits sent by the federal government were faulty.
“Everything goes to the [Centers for Disease Control] and back, but to the extent that this becomes more of a problem, we want to do local testing, and I know that they’re working on that,” DeSantis said. “They’re making sure that we have enough masks, gowns, goggles. Now, we have stockpiled some at the state level, but again, in a surge situation, I think a lot of states are going to want to be able to have some flexibility.”
Health officials said they’re waiting for the CDC to send new test kits from the manufacturer so they’ll be done in a more timely fashion.
DeSantis and Pence also praised President Donald Trump on his decision to stop incoming travel from China.
“Our objective is to be ready,” Pence said. “This is an all hands on deck effort, and we’re not only going to make sure that the resources are there but that the president also has the broadest range of options presented before him to keep the American people safe.”
Health officials said the 150 people being monitored in Florida may have traveled to a certain location where there are confirmed coronavirus cases or have come into contact with one such traveler. Only four of those patients are exhibiting symptoms, but it remains unclear whether they are being tested.
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