Mike Pence visits Raleigh in push for schools to reopen

Health
Mike Pence, Ron DeSantis, Stephen Hahn

Vice President Mike Pence, center, gestures as he speaks during a news conference with Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, left, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Don Soffer Clinical Research Center, Monday, July 27, 2020, in Miami. Pence was in Florida to mark the beginning of Phase III trials for a coronavirus vaccine. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Raleigh on Wednesday in a push to encourage more K-12 schools to reopen with entirely in-person instruction.

Air Force Two landed around noon on Wednesday at Raleigh-Durham International Airport ahead of planned stops at a private school and a company working on coronavirus vaccine trials. Pence disembarked the plane wearing a dark face mask. He was greeted by a small group and waved at onlookers before getting in a black SUV.

Pence will join a roundtable discussion highlighting how a private school has worked to safely resume classes. Thales Academy allowed 300 students to return to campus on July 20.

The move comes as President Donald Trump and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos have threatened to withhold federal funding from K-12 schools that don’t allow all of their students to return to physical classrooms.

Democratic North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced earlier this month that public schools may offer a mix of both online and in-person instruction, though districts can choose to offer fully remote learning.

“We don’t respond to those kind of threats,” Cooper said in a July 14 news conference of the Trump administration’s consideration of withholding federal funds.

After his visit to Thales Academy, Pence will remain in the Raleigh area to tour NCBiotech, which is conducting Phase 3 clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine. Pence’s appearance will come two days after Trump visited Morrisville to tout the country’s progress in developing a COVID-19 vaccine under his Operation Warp Speed initiative.

The vice president’s office said on Tuesday that Pence will “discuss President Trump’s goal of making a coronavirus vaccine available to the American people as soon and as safely as possible.”

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Anderson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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