In Tampa, Pence praises Florida's 'innovative' coronavirus response efforts

As COVID-19 cases across Tampa Bay continue to rise in record jumps, the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force made a visit to Tampa to praise the governor and his efforts to slow the virus.

Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence met with Governor Ron DeSantis at USF Health's Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation in downtown Tampa.

The last time the vice president was in Florida was May 20, when the number of positive coronavirus cases were dropping, and the economy was re-opening. Things are different now, with the state breaking records for new daily cases at least once a week. 

Overnight, Florida added more than 10,000 new COVID-19 cases – 911 in Hillsborough alone.

But Pence commended DeSantis for his “innovative” coronavirus response efforts. Both the governor and vice president noted there’s been a huge shift in the age group of the infected – now, it’s likely those between 18 and 34. 

DeSantis says it’s clear we’re seeing more of a community transmission.

RELATED: Florida reports over 10,000 new coronavirus cases Thursday in latest record; 67 new deaths

“You go back a month, the median age was in the 50s, now the median age is 34,” DeSantis said. “And there will be days where we will get the median age under 30. It’s been a huge shift, and the case growth has been in the 18-34 age group.”

This is something Pence reiterated.

“No younger American would ever want to put at risk a grandparent, parent, elderly neighbor or friend by exposing them to the coronavirus and that's why we encourage you to be vigilant and to heed state and local guidance,” he said.

But Dr. Deborah Birx, who was also in town today, says the White House was watching the Tampa area very closely through March, April and May, and through Florida’s re-opening. 

“For days and for days, and for weeks and for weeks, we saw you sitting at four percent – which everybody, including the World Health Organization, said is a safe place to be. The end of May we began to see your numbers increase and go from a very low of 4 percent to this high now of 17 percent. So this virus came to Tampa and spread through Tampa, sometime at the end of May.”

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Pence was originally scheduled to be in Sarasota on Thursday, but the Sarasota County Republican Party announced it was postponed. 

He was also scheduled to be in Lake Wales at an event organized by pro-Trump group America First Policies, billed as the "Great American Comeback tour." However, the group announced, "Out of an abundance of caution at this time, we are postponing the Great American Comeback tour stop in Florida. We look forward to rescheduling soon."