Vice President Mike Pence, chairman of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, apparently saw no problem with a choir of more than 100 people singing without masks as long as he got an opportunity to appear competent. He and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson attended a cringy “Celebrate Freedom” rally that attracted almost 2,200 people to the 14,000-member First Baptist Church on Sunday in Dallas, according to CNN.
That same day, the nation’s coronavirus case count topped 2.5 million, and Texas—along with Florida and Arizona—emerged as “the country’s latest epicenters” for the virus, according to The Washington Post. “We’re very lucky. We have a smart vice president,” Carson said during the service. He also praised Pence as someone who “very quickly can grasp scientific concepts and make sense out of them.” His presence at the kind of event that flies in the face of the best recommendations from experts suggests otherwise.
Just in case the sight of the massive choir singing before the vice president may have caused confusion, the Centers for Disease Control is still recommending people avoid close contact and wear nose and mouth covers when they are expecting to be within 6 feet of others.
Texas’ coronavirus count hit a record high Thursday with almost 6,000 new cases, and hospitalizations have reached new highs daily for the past 16 days, The Texas Tribune reported. Arizona hit a one-day high of 3,857 Sunday, and Florida reported 8,530 new cases on Sunday, which is actually a drop from the record 9,585 cases on Saturday, according to The Washington Post.
Pence thanked Robert Jeffress, senior pastor at First Baptist Church and adviser to President Donald Trump, before launching into a speech about his plans to put America first. “Working with your governor, we will put the health of the people of the Lone Star State first, and every single day we’ll continue to reclaim our freedom and our way of life, as each day we are one day closer to the day we put this pandemic in the past,” Pence said. “And when we do, with this governor and this president, we’ll bring Texas and America back bigger and better than ever before.”
That would be a bit more believable if actually meeting with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for a coronavirus update wasn’t an afterthought to rally planning. The Texas Tribune described his talk with the governor as a “last-minute addition.”
Everything’s bigger in Texas, including worship service. This is just a taste of the grand scene inside First Baptist Church, where Mike Pence is set to speak any minute now. pic.twitter.com/om1ffiDwKE
— Brittany Shepherd (@brittanys) June 28, 2020
Watch the full service: