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In VP debate, Pence and Harris offer conflicting views of nation’s reality

Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris

Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) participates in the vice presidential debate at the University of Utah on October 7, 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The vice presidential candidates only meet once to debate before the general election on November 3. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Trump administration’s pandemic response: decisive action that saved lives, or the greatest failure of any presidential administration? During Wednesday’s vice presidential debate, Vice President Mike Pence and the Democratic challenger, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, offered drastically different takes — from behind plexiglass screens — on how the president has handled the COVID-19 crisis.

Pence touted problematic claims, such as that President Donald Trump’s ban on travel from China helped the nation respond to the coronavirus (PolitiFact rated a similar claim “False”) and that the country would have a vaccine in less than a year (the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a vaccine, yet to be approved, will not be widely available until next year).

Harris said the Trump administration misled the public about how serious the virus is, pointing to briefings Trump and Pence received in January. Trump told journalist Bob Woodward in a recorded interview that he purposely downplayed it.

Our partners at PolitiFact broke down a whole gamut of claims — on fracking, the economic recovery and the Supreme Court. The highlights regarding health care and coronavirus policies follow:

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Kamala Harris: “The president said [the coronavirus] was a hoax.”Rating: False

This often-repeated statement falsely attributed to Trump has its roots in a Feb. 28 rally in North Carolina. But it’s a mischaracterization of what he actually said, which was an attack on Democrats’ response to the virus.

Trump cast the Democrats’ criticism of his work as foisting a hoax on the public. “They tried the impeachment hoax,” he said. “That was not a perfect conversation. They tried anything. They tried it over and over. They’d been doing it since you got in. It’s all turning. They lost. It’s all turning. Think of it. Think of it. And this is their new hoax.”

Mike Pence: The Rose Garden event with Judge Amy Coney Barrett “was an outdoor event, which all of our scientists regularly and routinely advised.”Wrong

The event included an indoor component, during which Trump, Barrett and others posed for photos without masks. Public health officials do say outdoor activities are less risky — provided masks are worn — than indoor events, where it might be harder to keep people apart and there’s less ventilation. But attendees of the Sept. 26 White House event for the nomination of Barrett to the Supreme Court did not practice social distancing, and many did not wear masks throughout the event.

Pence: Trump “suspended all travel from China. … Joe Biden opposed that decision. He called it xenophobic and hysterical.”Misleading

There were exemptions in Trump’s travel restrictions on China. On Jan. 21, the CDC confirmed the first U.S. case of the

Debate Watchers Are Convinced Mike Pence Has Pink Eye

There was quite a bit to unpack during Wednesday night’s Vice-Presidential debate—one that has gained more significance in recent days following President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis. However, while many focused on what both Mike Pence and Kamala Harris had to say, something else  (besides a fly landing on his head) took center stage when it came to the Vice-President—his left eye.

As Pence took his turn to speak at various points—or interrupted Harris during her time—several debate watchers took notice that his left eye appeared to be red, and led many to wonder what was going on.

It also became a concern as many wondered if the Vice-President was suffering from Conjunctivitis—also known as Pink Eye—which can be a symptom of a COVID-19 infection. According to the Journal of Medical Virology, 1.1% of people who had COVID-19 also developed conjunctivitis, with an additional 3.3% of those being people with severe infections and 0.7% of them having non-severe COVID. With the latest count of positive Coronavirus cases in the United States alone hitting 7,582,300, that means approximately 83,405 cases saw people developing pink eye.

The concern that Pence could have the illness gained attention because of his proximity to both the President and several other members of his inner circle—several of whom have tested positive in recent days for COVID-19. Pence was also present at the same Rose Garden event to announce Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court, which has since been labeled as a potential Super Spreader event, with many of the people in the inner circle who tested positive present, not wearing masks or social distancing.

After the President and First Lady announced they had tested positive, the Pence and his wife Karen announced they had both tested negative for the disease. Still, it didn’t stop many from speculating that Pence could have since become positive and was exhibiting symptoms.

However, Forbes points out that while the discoloration in the Vice-President’s eye could have been conjunctivitis-–which could or could not be tied to a potential COVID-19 infection—there are also several other reasons why he had redness as well, including but not limited to a range of other different infections, allergies, Blepharitis, Glaucoma, inflammatory or autoimmune disease, reaction to medications, crying, dry eyes, irritation by a foreign substance, injury or broken blood vessels.

The Vice-President has not spoken out about the discoloration in his eye as of press time.

US Vice President Mike Pence during the vice presidential debate US Vice President Mike Pence during the vice presidential debate Photo: AFP / Eric BARADAT

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Under Pence, Politics Regularly Seeped Into the Coronavirus Task Force

WASHINGTON — Aboard Air Force Two en route to the Mayo Clinic on April 28, White House aides walked down the aisle distributing masks to members of Vice President Mike Pence’s entourage, a requirement for everyone entering the renowned hospital in Minnesota as the coronavirus spread.

But Marc Short, the vice president’s powerful chief of staff, said Mr. Pence, the leader of the White House’s coronavirus task force, would not be wearing one. Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, tried to intervene, saying it would be a bad message to the public if the vice president were to flout hospital rules.

But according to a person who witnessed the discussion and a senior administration official familiar with the episode, Mr. Short responded that photographs of Mr. Pence in a mask could be used by Democrats as campaign ammunition against President Trump, who had consistently refused to wear one as he downplayed the severity of the crisis.

Mr. Pence’s decision to walk the halls of the Mayo Clinic without a mask turned into a public relations mess — the hospital said on Twitter during the visit that the vice president’s staff had been informed about the mask policy — and Mr. Pence would later say his choice was wrong.

But it was only one example of how, over nearly eight months since the vice president was given a leading role in managing the nation’s pandemic response, political considerations seeped into decisions by Mr. Pence and his staff about how to combat a disease that has now killed more than 210,000 Americans.

At the task force, grim science-based projections were sometimes de-emphasized for rosier predictions, and guidance from public health agencies — about schools and summer camps, for example — was sometimes massaged by the vice president’s staff.

At one point, Mr. Short directed Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to soften the agency’s recommendations to a meat processing company about safety steps, in part to placate the embattled industry. Mr. Short was also part of a small group, which included Kellyanne Conway, then a senior adviser to Mr. Trump, that pushed to change C.D.C. guidance on church reopenings.

Interviews with task force members, government public health officials and current and former White House officials show how public health considerations were sometimes at odds in the task force with the White House’s imperative for 2020: winning re-election on the basis of a strong economy.

“The vice president admittedly was in a difficult situation; he was asked to lead a project where his boss wasn’t on board,” said Senator Angus King, independent of Maine, who clashed with Mr. Pence during an April conference call about coronavirus testing. During that call, Mr. King erupted at the vice president for what he believed were his evasive answers.

“And so, the question is: To what extent, if any, did he try to push back on the president, minimizing masks, minimizing testing, continually

Fact-checking the 2020 vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris

Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic his Democratic challenger, California Sen. Kamala Harris, face off in Salt Lake City Wednesday night for the lone 2020 vice presidential debate.

The live, 90-minute debate, moderated by USA Today Washington Bureau chief Susan Page, touched on the coronavirus, the economy, climate change, the Supreme Court and more.

Below, ABC News will fact check what both candidates say. Refresh for the latest updates.

PHOTO: Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris arrive for the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah, Oct. 7, 2020, in Salt Lake City.

Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris arrive for the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah, Oct. 7, 2020, in Salt Lake City.

Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris arrive for the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah, Oct. 7, 2020, in Salt Lake City.

Pence misleads when comparing COVID-19 pandemic to H1N1, Obama administration response

PENCE’S CLAIM: “We actually do know what failure looks like in a pandemic: It was 2009, the swine flu arrived in the United States. … When Joe Biden was vice president of the United States, not 7.5 million people contracted the swine flu, 60 million Americans contracted the swine flu.”

FACT CHECK: While Pence is correct that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the 2009 swine flu pandemic infected an estimated 60.8 million Americans in its first year, it is misleading to compare the two outbreaks given H1N1’s far lower fatality rate, and similarly misleading to call the Obama administration’s response a “failure.”

The CDC estimates up to 575,000 lives were lost to the swine flu worldwide. Of those, fewer than 13,000 were American, due in part to the Obama administration’s “complex, multi-faceted and long-term response,” the CDC later wrote. Thus far, COVID-19 has taken the lives of over 210,000 Americans, a little over eight months since the first known case of the virus was discovered in the United States.

“The team, in my opinion, in 2009, really demonstrated that the planning was worth it. Nothing is ever perfect. But I felt just so impressed and so proud of the job CDC did in 2009,” Dr. Julie Gerberding, a CDC director during the George W. Bush administration, told ABC News.

–John Verhovek and Lucien Bruggeman

Pence overstates China travel restrictions

PHOTO: Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah, Oct. 7, 2020, in Salt Lake City.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah, Oct. 7, 2020, in Salt Lake City.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah, Oct. 7, 2020, in Salt Lake City.

FACT CHECK: At the end of January, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation to restrict travelers who had visited China in the previous 14 days from entering

Pence, Harris spar over potential coronavirus vaccine

Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the Democratic vice presidential nominee, sparred over a potential coronavirus vaccine during Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate.

Harris, who in the past has wavered about whether she would take a vaccine approved under the Trump administration’s watch, said if medical experts, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, sign off on a candidate, “I’ll be the first in line to take it.” But she clarified if President Trump “tells us to take it, them I’m not taking it.”

Pence chose to respond to Harris’ remarks when asked a separate question, accusing her of continuing to “undermine public confidence in a vaccine,” which he said was “unconscionable.” He then asked the senator to “stop playing politics with people’s lives” before reiterating the White House’s belief that a vaccine will be approved by the Food and Drug Administration by the end of the year.

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Pence Accuses Harris of ‘Playing Politics with People’s Lives’ by ‘Undermining Confidence’ in Vaccine

Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday accused Senator Kamala Harris of “playing politics with people’s lives” by saying that she would not take a vaccine for the coronavirus if it was endorsed by President Trump.

During Wednesday evening’s vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City, Harris said she would take a vaccine if it were approved by “public health professionals” including Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor for the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, but not if Trump signed off on it.

“If the doctors tell us that we should take it, I’ll be the first in line to take it, absolutely,” Harris said. “But if Donald Trump tells us that we should take it, I’m not taking it.”

Pence immediately condemned the California senator’s position, saying she could be endangering lives by casting doubt on the efficacy of a potential vaccine against the deadly pathogen.

“The fact that you continue to undermine public confidence in a vaccine, if the vaccine emerges during the Trump administration, I think is unconscionable,” Pence responded.

“Senator, I just ask you, stop playing politics with people’s lives,” the vice president said.

In June, Fauci said that he is “cautiously optimistic” that a vaccine for the coronavirus will be available to the American public by the end of the year or early 2021.

“The reality is that we will have a vaccine, we believe, before the end of this year,” Pence continued at the debate. “And it will have the capacity to save countless American lives. And your continuous undermining of confidence in a vaccine is just unacceptable.”

More from National Review

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Watch live: Kamala Harris, Mike Pence go head-to-head in vice presidential debate

Oct. 7 (UPI) — Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence are preparing to square off in their first and only debate Wednesday night, which will be staged with expanded COVID-19 safety precautions just days after President Donald Trump was diagnosed with the coronavirus.

The debate is scheduled for 7 p.m. MDT at Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and will be broadcast live nationally.

As of early Wednesday, though, the Commission on Presidential Debates was working to iron out details for the safety measures. Trump announced he’d tested positive for the virus a little more than two days after he participated in a debate with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The commission has said that Harris and Pence will be spaced 12 feet apart for their debate, instead of the 7 feet originally planned.

Since the spring, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged Americans to keep at least 6 feet away from anyone not in their household. The agency updated its guidance Monday to indicate that, under certain conditions, the coronavirus can spread more than 6 feet away in poorly ventilated spaces.

The two parties were at odds on Tuesday night, however, about whether there should be plexiglass dividers between Harris and Pence to protect them. Biden’s campaign requested the dividers, but Pence asked that divider be placed on his side of the stage.

“If she wants it, she’s more than welcome to surround herself with plexiglass if that makes her feel more comfortable,” Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, told The Washington Post. “It’s not needed.”

Pence’s position on the issue is representative of the vast divide between the two camps on the seriousness of the pandemic. Pence and Trump have repeatedly downplayed the threat while Biden and Harris have warned of its dangers and routinely advocated for protective measures. More than a million people worldwide and 210,000 patients in the United States have died of the disease so far.

Both candidates also have been tested daily since at least Friday, when Trump announced he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive. A number of Trump aides and associates have also tested positive, including aide Hope Hicks, adviser Stephen Miller, former adviser Kellyanne Conway, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Republican Party Chair Ronna McDaniel, campaign manager Bill Stepien and campaign adviser Chris Christie.

Biden and Harris have tested negative multiple times since the debate in Cleveland a week ago.

First presidential debate takes place in Cleveland

President Donald Trump (L) and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden (R), with Chris Wallace moderating, face off in the first of three scheduled 90-minute presidential debates in Cleveland on Tuesday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

The Latest: VP Pence Tests Negative for Coronavirus Again | Political News

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on coronavirus infections hitting President Donald Trump and others in his circle (all times EDT):

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, have tested negative again for the coronavirus days after President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were diagnosed with COVID-19.

A Pence spokesperson confirmed Sunday’s negative tests.

Despite the president’s hospitalization, Pence is expected to resume regular campaigning this week with no changes to protocols meant to keep him from getting infected.

Pence is set to debate Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City.

President Donald Trump’s physician says he was trying to “reflect the upbeat attitude” of the president and his medical team when he declined to share Saturday that Trump was placed on oxygen the day before.

Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley was pressed Sunday on why his rosy picture of the president’s health was contradicted moments later by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who expressed that the medical team was very concerned with the president’s health Friday morning when he experienced a drop in his blood oxygen levels and had a high fever.

Said Conley: “I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude of the team, that the president, that his course of illness has had.”

He added that he “didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction. And in doing so, came off like we’re trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true.”

President Donald Trump’s team of doctors says he is doing well after his COVID-19 diagnosis and could be discharged as early as Monday to continue his treatment.

Dr. Brian Garibaldi, a specialist in pulmonary critical care, said Trump received a second dose of the experimental drug remdesivir along with a first dose of dexamethasone Saturday and isn’t showing any side effects “that we can tell.”

He said Sunday that Trump is “up and well” and the plan was to have him “out of bed” Sunday as much as possible.

Garibaldi and Trump’s doctor, Dr. Sean Conley, said if things continue to go well, Trump will be able to return to the White House on Monday to continue his five-day course of remdesivir treatment and other appropriate therapy.

The president’s physician says President Donald Trump was treated with a steroid after a drop in oxygen levels on Saturday.

Dr. Sean Conley said at a news conference on Sunday that he was given the steroid dexamethasone while he was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Conley said the president’s oxygen level had dropped down to 93% on Saturday. He says the president did not feel short of breath.

He says the president’s medical team is hoping Trump will be up and about, out of bed and eating and drinking throughout the day.

President Donald Trump’s doctors are set to brief the public on his condition late Sunday morning after he spent a second night hospitalized with COVID-19.

Navy

VP Pence tests negative for coronavirus again

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on coronavirus infections hitting President Donald Trump and others in his circle (all times EDT):

1:10 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, have tested negative again for the coronavirus days after President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were diagnosed with COVID-19.

A Pence spokesperson confirmed Sunday’s negative tests.

Despite the president’s hospitalization, Pence is expected to resume regular campaigning this week with no changes to protocols meant to keep him from getting infected.

Pence is set to debate Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City.

___

Noon

President Donald Trump’s physician says he was trying to “reflect the upbeat attitude” of the president and his medical team when he declined to share Saturday that Trump was placed on oxygen the day before.

Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley was pressed Sunday on why his rosy picture of the president’s health was contradicted moments later by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who expressed that the medical team was very concerned with the president’s health Friday morning when he experienced a drop in his blood oxygen levels and had a high fever.

Said Conley: “I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude of the team, that the president, that his course of illness has had.”

He added that he “didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction. And in doing so, came off like we’re trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true.”

___

11:55 a.m.

President Donald Trump’s team of doctors says he is doing well after his COVID-19 diagnosis and could be discharged as early as Monday to continue his treatment.

Dr. Brian Garibaldi, a specialist in pulmonary critical care, said Trump received a second dose of the experimental drug remdesivir along with a first dose of dexamethasone Saturday and isn’t showing any side effects “that we can tell.”

He said Sunday that Trump is “up and well” and the plan was to have him “out of bed” Sunday as much as possible.

Garibaldi and Trump’s doctor, Dr. Sean Conley, said if things continue to go well, Trump will be able to return to the White House on Monday to continue his five-day course of remdesivir treatment and other appropriate therapy.

___

11:50 a.m.

The president’s physician says President Donald Trump was treated with a steroid after a drop in oxygen levels on Saturday.

Dr. Sean Conley said at a news conference on Sunday that he was given the steroid dexamethasone while he was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Conley said the president’s oxygen level had dropped down to 93% on Saturday. He says the president did not feel short of breath.

He says the president’s medical team is hoping Trump will be up and about, out of bed and eating and drinking throughout the day.

___

11:15 a.m.

President Donald Trump’s doctors are set to brief the public on

Pence ordered the closure of US borders against CDC’s wishes: report

Vice President Pence in March reportedly ordered the director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to use its emergency powers to close the U.S. borders, despite top scientists saying there was no evidence that doing so would reduce the spread of COVID-19.



Mike Pence wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: Pence ordered the closure of US borders against CDC's wishes: report


© Getty Images
Pence ordered the closure of US borders against CDC’s wishes: report

The vice president called the CDC’s director, Robert Redfield, and told him to use the medical agency’s special powers allotted during a pandemic, The Associated Press reported.

Title 42 of the Public Health Service Act gives federal health officials the authority to take certain wide-reaching measures during a pandemic in order to prevent the spread of a disease, including limiting immigration from countries with high numbers of confirmed cases.

Three people with direct knowledge of the situation told the AP that Pence’s request came after the CDC had initially refused to comply with a Trump administration directive to shut down borders, saying at the time that there was no valid health reason to issue such a directive.

A former anonymous CDC official who was not authorized to divulge internal discussions said that Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf were also on the phone call. The source told the AP that Redfield immediately ordered his senior staff to carry out the order.

Since the action was implemented in March, it has caused nearly 150,000 children and adults to be expelled from the U.S., according to the AP’s analysis.

The CDC’s order covered the U.S. borders with both Mexico and Canada, but has had a larger impact on the thousands of asylum-seekers and immigrants at the southern border.

Although public health experts recommended that the Trump administration focus on a national mask mandate, enforcing social distancing and increasing the number of contact tracers, top White House officials, including Trump aide Stephen Miller, pushed for the immigration order from the CDC.

“That was a Stephen Miller special. He was all over that,” said Olivia Troye, a former top aide to Pence.

Troye recently resigned, saying the administration was prioritizing politics over the health and safety of Americans.

“There was a lot of pressure on DHS and CDC to push this forward,” she told the AP.

Anthony So, an international expert at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, wrote in a letter to Redfield in April that “the decision to halt asylum processes ‘to protect the public health’ is not based on evidence or science,” and said “this order directly endangers tens of thousands of lives and threatens to amplify dangerous anti-immigrant sentiment and xenophobia.”

Pence spokeswoman Katie Miller told The Hill on Saturday that the AP’s reporting was “false.”

“Vice President Pence never directed the CDC on this issue,” Miller said when contacted with a request for comment.

The AP’s reporting comes as approximately 2,000 migrants from Honduras are traveling toward the U.S. southern border.

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei reportedly said in a broadcast