Vice President Mike Pence defended a Sept. 26 event held at the White House Rose Garden, after which more than a dozen staffers and lawmakers in attendance tested positive for COVID-19, including the president himself, saying that because it was outdoors it aligned with the guidelines scientists “regularly and routinely advise” for reducing transmission of the virus. The CDC says that small, outdoor gatherings in which individuals are socially distant from one another pose a lower risk for COVID-19 transmission than crowded indoor gatherings, but at the Rose Garden gathering guests were not seated six feet from one another, in some cases even hugging and shaking hands, and many were not wearing masks.

Pence then said that he and the president “trust the American people to make choices in the best interest of their health,” adding that former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., “consistently talk about mandates” that would impose more government control over Americans’ lives. Harris pushed back, saying that respecting the American people would have meant telling them the truth about the deadly coronavirus earlier than the administration did, so that they could have had more time to protect their families and economic well-being. “The American people have had to sacrifice far too much because of the incompetence of the administration,” Harris said.
Pence and Harris faced off in their first and only debate this election on Oct. 7 in Salt Lake City. The debate came amid heightened concerns over the coronavirus following Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis.

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