Updated Mar 1, 2020 - Health

Mike Pence to local schools: It's OK to shut down over coronavirus

Vice President Mike Pence appears in a pre-taped interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" in Washington, D.C. Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC

President Trump would "respect any decisions that are made at the state and local level" on actions to combat the novel coronavirus, including school shutdowns, Vice President Mike Pence told NBC in an interview airing Sunday.

Why it matters: COVID-19 is a major challenge for the Trump administration, with 66 infections and one death from the virus in the U.S., per a CDC statement Saturday. A poor response could be "politically devastating" for them, Axios' Alayna Treene and Sam Baker note.

The big picture: The president has appointed Pence to lead the Trump administration's COVID-19 task force.

What he's saying: CNN is also airing an interview with Pence on Sunday's "State of the Union" in which the vice president tells journalist Jake Tapper, "We know there will be more cases." He also admitted it "is possible" that more Americans could die from the virus. But he said health officials had made clear that "most people that contract the coronavirus, they will recover."

  • During his interview with NBC's Chuck Todd on "Meet The Press," Pence acknowledged there had been "some downturns this week" in the stock market because of concerns about the virus. But he added, "[I]t will come back. But our focus is going to remain on the health and well-being of the American people."
  • "What the president has told us to do on the task force, what he did when he initiated the suspension of all travel from China, the quarantining effort, is we’re leaning into this effort," Pence told Todd in the interview, recorded Saturday.
"It’s all hands on deck. Because our effort here is to do everything possible to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the United States."
— Mike Pence on "Meet the Press"

Go deeper: What the coronavirus means for Trump's presidency

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more details on the interviews and further context.

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Pence tests negative for coronavirus

Vice President Mike Pence briefs reports at the White House on March 21. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence has tested negative for the novel coronavirus, a spokesperson said on Saturday.

Catch up quick: Pence said he elected to test for COVID-19 after a member his office tested positive on Friday. "Neither President Trump nor Vice President Pence had close contact with the individual," Katie Miller, Pence's press secretary, said on Friday.

Pence's presidential moment

Vice President Pence bumps with Washington state Governor Jay Inslee during a press conference March 5 near Tacoma. Photo: Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence, often caricatured as the White House Yes Man, is doing many of the things critics wish President Trump would do.

The big picture: He's a daily, consistent presence on the airwaves. He provides useful info rather than random digressions. He leans on health and medical experts — both at public events and behind the scenes when he's chairing the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Pence tells White House staff to avoid physical contact

Mike Pence. Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence sent White House staff an email Saturday afternoon recommending "social distancing" and to "avoid physical contact" to keep themselves and their colleagues safe from the novel coronavirus.

Why it matters: This is the first staff-wide email Pence has sent across the complex during his time as vice president — and is the latest sign the White House is shifting its posture against the pandemic.

Go deeperArrowMar 14, 2020 - Health