Pence To Visit Washington State As Coronavirus Death Toll Rises Vice President Pence will travel to the state hit hardest by coronavirus. "I want to assure the people ... that we're with them," Pence said.
NPR logo

Pence Heads To Washington State As Coronavirus Death Toll Rises

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/811843733/812452451" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Pence Heads To Washington State As Coronavirus Death Toll Rises

Pence Heads To Washington State As Coronavirus Death Toll Rises

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/811843733/812452451" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A single case of coronavirus in North Carolina reveals the challenge of containing the virus. The person traveled from Washington state, which has multiple cases and 10 of the 11 U.S. deaths so far. So how did the person travel out of Washington state undetected, and what can the government do now? Vice President Mike Pence is leading the federal response to the disease and will be in Washington state today.

NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez begins our coverage. He's in our studios. Good morning.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What is the challenge the vice president and the rest of the government face?

ORDOÑEZ: It's a big challenge. They really need to have this information. They say they need to have this information so they can contain this virus. I mean, this meeting yesterday morning was the big meeting - one of the big meetings for the morning, and it was so big that President Trump even joined Pence in the coronavirus meeting. The task force wants more information from the airlines about travelers. Where are they going? Where did they land? Where do they go after they land?

Just an - as an example, as you pointed out, the CDC is trying to track down information about the flight to North Carolina with the person who eventually got sick. That person, as you noted, was from - it was in Kirkland, Wash., at the nursing home where there were a number of cases. I specifically asked CDC Director Robert Redfield about this and what information they had. Here's what he said.

ROBERT REDFIELD: And as we have the manifest, now the trick is to go find them. And that's why we're having this discussion.

INSKEEP: Meaning go find everybody who was on that plane.

ORDOÑEZ: Exactly. And they are having that discussion. They do not have everyone yet. And the task force made very clear that this issue of sharing data is not resolved. You know, the airlines, on the - on their part, they want the administration to say that it's safe to fly, to fly domestically. This has hurt their business. Some of the executives were just, like, nodding their head as President Trump actually said this and obliged to them. I was there, and you could see them just kind of nodding their heads.

INSKEEP: May - not - said what? That they would allow - they would welcome people to travel freely, that's what the president said?

ORDOÑEZ: The president said that it was safe to fly...

INSKEEP: OK.

ORDOÑEZ: ...And Pence said it later today - later in the day, that it was safe to fly.

INSKEEP: All right. This is just one aspect of the federal government's response and one aspect of the challenges. What does the vice president's travel itinerary - his own travel itinerary today - say about the government's priorities?

ORDOÑEZ: Right. I mean, the vice president is traveling to Washington today to that specific area where there have been a lot of cases. He's going to travel first to Minnesota, where 3M is, and he's going to be where they're producing masks for hospitals. The bipartisan funding package - that includes money for ramping up supplies for health workers. After that, Pence will travel to Washington state to meet with the governor, Inslee, and assure the community that it has the full support of the government.

INSKEEP: OK. Thanks very much. That's NPR's Franco Ordoñez.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you.

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.