Vice President Mike Pence is set to visit Atlanta on Friday to meet with Gov. Brian Kemp to discuss Georgia’s aggressive approach to reopening the state’s economy during the coronavirus pandemic.
He also plans to gather with restaurant executives to highlight their plans to resume dine-in operations, as well as talk about safety precautions they're taking to bring their employees back to work.
Though the details aren’t yet finalized, a White House official said it’s among a spate of visits by Pence to assess how different state governments are responding to a pandemic that’s sickened more than 1.5 million Americans.
“The vice president has been traveling around the country to highlight the true American spirit of coming together in a time of need,” said Katie Miller, Pence’s press secretary. “He is excited to be in Georgia on Friday to highlight the economic reopening.”
Pence has struck an optimistic tone in recent appearances, saying in a May 8 interview “my hope is that sometime early summer, this coronavirus will be largely behind us and we can get America working again.”
The visit comes weeks after President Donald Trump criticized Kemp for allowing barber shops, tattoo parlors and other businesses restart so long as they followed safety guidelines. A similar order allowed restaurants to reopen dining rooms in late April.
The stance shocked Kemp aides because hours earlier, Trump and Pence placed separate calls to the governor, each voicing support for his plans. A week later, Trump reversed course, calling Kemp’s approach “wonderful.”
Kemp, meanwhile, has offered kind words for Trump and his administration. When pressed about Trump’s remarks, he praised the “unprecedented response” from the White House and sought to defuse the dispute.
The governor has touted a surge in testing and a recent drop in hospitalizations as a sign his approach is working. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of state data showed that hospitalizations for the disease dropped by about one-third across Georgia in the past two weeks.
Public health experts agree that Georgia’s April lockdown slowed the spread of the virus. But many expect cases and deaths to rise now that restrictions are eased. And they warn the promising recent figures don’t mean infections are down, citing a weeks-long lag between an infection and test results.
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