NEW ORLEANS — Vice President Mike Pence, the leader of the US Coronavirus Task Force, told WWL-TV’s Katie Moore in an exclusive one-on-one interview Monday that the testing for COVID-19 is sufficient enough in that all states, including Louisiana, could move into President Trump’s first phase of re-opening. But that’s just one of several criteria the White House recommended states consider before lifting coronavirus restrictions.
“Today we're testing over 200,000 Americans a day across the country and we're gonna continue to work closely with Louisiana and across the country to try to increase the testing. But we believe testing today is sufficient across America for any state to enter that first phase of opening again. We believe there is a sufficient amount of testing to do the kind of testing that we recommend for phase one,” Pence said.
Pence applauded Louisiana’s aggressive effort in testing with the state testing among the highest number of people per capita.
“In discussions with your governor, we'll continue not only to offer our best counsel, but we'll continue to offer medical support, medical equipment, that personal protective equipment and we'll continue to offer support as Louisiana continues to try to increase testing across your state. Although, I will tell you that Louisiana can be proud to have one of the highest per-capita numbers of testing of any state in the country,” Pence said.
Governor John Bel Edwards said in a news conference Monday he hopes the state will be in a better position to adequately test state-wide and he extended state-mandated restrictions to May 15, expecting the state to then have the ability to test 4.3% of the population.
Edwards also said while metro New Orleans would meet the White House criteria for reopening, including infections, hospitalizations and the testing capacity, other parts of the state lag. He said Pence was supportive of delaying the start of phase one in Louisiana in his call today with the nation’s governors.
“I have to say how proud we are, despite the heartbreaking loss of people in our community and the families who've lost loved ones, New Orleans has made great progress and Louisiana has made great progress by putting the health of their neighbors first,” Pence said.
The interview with Pence comes on the heels of an additional $484 interim coronavirus relief package that made its way through Congress with overwhelming, bi-partisan support. President Trump signed it into law last week. The money is meant to replenish the small business paycheck protection program which dried up quickly after it opened up, and provide more funding for COVID-19 testing.
It is an interim influx of funds until Congress can strike a deal on a second sweeping coronavirus relief package after the $2 trillion CARES Act.
When asked, what comes next to stimulate the economy once this round of relief runs out, Pence replied, “As we move forward, we're going to look for more ways to be supportive of the American people. I think every American can be proud of the way Washington DC has set politics aside, worked together put the interests of America's health and the financial wellbeing of America's families and businesses first.”