Ahead of the vice presidential debate, Congresswoman Donna Shalala, 18th U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, State Senator José Javier Rodríguez, Dr. Kitonga Kiminyo, infectious disease doctor in Palm Beach County, and Dr. Kayser Enneking, Professor of Anesthesiology at the University of Florida and candidate for Florida’s 21st House District discussed Mike Pence’s failed leadership as chair of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the Trump administration’s chaotic, ineffective response to the coronavirus pandemic that has left 750,000 Floridians out of work and more than 720,000 infected.
Watch the full event here or read excerpts of what the speakers said below.
Congresswoman Donna Shalala. FL-27
“They failed to control the pandemic. Their promises to Floridians about helping us get through this crisis have gone unfulfilled. Months into this crisis, our hospitals and our schools still lack supplies needed to keep people and our children safe. Floridians are no longer receiving help from the federal government because President Trump would not come to the table, even though Speaker Pelosi and the Secretary of the Treasury were clearly close in their negotiations. The president comes out of the hospital and says to Americans, to people in our state and in our community, ‘nah, you don’t need any help, what’s important to me is confirming the next Supreme Court Justice…’
“More than anything else, this is about life and death. This is about people getting unnecessarily sick and dying and almost every one of us knows someone in our community who has died. This is unforgivable and tonight we’ll hold the Vice President accountable because he has been the leader of filling President Trump’s orders.”
State Senator José Javier Rodríguez, SD-37
“Tonight, Vice President Pence is going to have to answer for the Trump administration’s failures. And the failures in light of them having information that they did not share with the public. As the Congresswoman said, we’re going to hear from Vice President Pence, but more importantly, we’re going to hear from him in his capacity as the chair of the White House Coronavirus Task Force… We have a lot of folks who are trying to find work, we have other folks who are going back to work but in an unsafe workplace with no guidance and no help from the federal government. We have business owners who have had to go from furloughs to permanent layoffs to closing their businesses for good — and yet, as Congresswoman Shalala says, the United States House of Representatives did their job all the way back in May before the CARES Act programs expired…and yet at every step the Trump administration has undermined negotiations between his own administration and the House of Representatives and between the House of Representatives and the Senate. We need economic relief.
“Everyone on Main Street will tell you that Trump is busy with a different approach — his approach to economic relief if unfortunately erratic and self-centered, which is something we have unfortunately come to expect from the president…totally tone deaf to the needs of families struggling, whether they’re out of work, trying to bring employees back, trying to reopen, and had Trump not repeatedly scuttled negotiations on capitol hill, we could have saved hundreds of thousands of jobs and untold lives.”
Dr. Kitonga Kiminyo, infectious disease doctor from Palm Beach County
“This is a totally preventable situation in the sense that we can do better if we just follow the simple rules of science as we know them right now pertaining to this pandemic. I think that Vice President Pence has failed, has failed miserably, when it came to this coronavirus task force. There was no trusting in the science, there was no enabling the scientists to do what we thought was best for it…I’m going back in to see more patients with COVID right after this call — so we need a change and I’m glad that we’re going to have a change coming in November.”
Dr. Kayser Enneking, MD, Professor of Anesthesiology at the University of Florida and candidate for Florida’s 21st House District
“This is an abomination. This is not the United States of America and the response that we expect from our political leaders. If we want to think about how we could have done this, I can’t do any more than to reiterate that we didn’t know what to do about this as we started, but we did know that empathy and modeling of behavior would have gone a long way towards having everyone in this country understand that this was a virus that we needed to defeat. And we needed to defeat it as a single United States of America and instead, we had a president who disregarded it at every step of the way, a Vice President who has bumbled his way through trying to lead a task force that has accomplished zero…”
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