Vice President Mike Pence met briefly Saturday with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker to discuss the response to the coronavirus pandemic while he visited the famous island getaway of Nantucket to headline a $25,000-ticket fundraiser for President Donald Trump administration's reelection campaign.
Pence, who heads the White House's Coronavirus Task Force, praised Baker's efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, which has among the highest death tolls from the virus in the nation, at more than 8,200.
"I thank you for your strong, steady leadership, " Pence said in an appearance with Baker at Nantucket Memorial Airport. "We're with you, and we're going to stay with you every step of the way until we put the coronavirus in the past.''
Beyond praising Massachusetts for its progress, the leaders focused on how the government can support the state's efforts to contain the virus.
Baker, a Republican who didn't vote for Trump in 2016, has at times been critical of the Trump administration's response to the pandemic, including when the state's personal protective equipment went missing during the start of the outbreak.
Pence made a promise to Baker on Saturday, saying, "we're going to continue to make sure that Massachusetts has the resources to continue to do the level of testing you need going forward and has the medicines."
Baker thanked Pence for his task force's work, which he said has been "enormously helpful and supportive."
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And even though Gov. Baker has previously called out Trump for threatening to cut federal funding if schools don't reopen in the fall, Pence made it clear on Saturday that additional support will be available whenever a safe reopening is possible.
"Our commitment to you, governor, is we're gonna make sure that the state of Massachusetts has the resources to be able to safely reopen your schools as soon as that is possible," Pence said.
Baker said he'd spent about an hour with Admiral Brett Giroir, who oversees coronavirus testing as Trump's assistant secretary for health, before meeting with Pence to talk about "all the things that keep me up at night" concerning the virus.
Baker on Friday announced strict new travel restrictions to control spread of the virus, including mandating anyone travelling to the state to self-quarantine for 14 days. Massachusetts has been among the hardest hit states for the virus, with more than 8,200 recorded deaths as of Friday.
Pence's visit, which was greeted with a mix of curious onlookers and protests on the island off Cape Cod, came as Nantucket is seeing an increase in coronavirus cases. Local health officials say 24 of the island's total 38 cases have come in the past month, with nine of them reported in roughly the last week.
Roughly 60% of those who have tested positive on the island are in their 20s and 30s, though a man in his 80s has died, town officials said.
Massachusetts health officials reported 12 new deaths and 210 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Saturday. That brings Massachusetts' death toll to nearly 8,300 and more than 108,000 total confirmed cases since the pandemic started.
Baker was not expected to attend the lunchtime fundraiser at the home of Putnam Investments CEO Robert Reynolds.