FOX 35 EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Vice President Mike Pence on COVID-19 response in Florida

FOX 35's Ryan Elijah spoke exclusively to Vice President Mike Pence on Monday, touching on a number of issues as it relates to the coronavirus pandemic and Florida's economy.

Mr. Pence discussed the growing protests to reopen the country and how you move a nation so divided on the issue, in a safe manner. 

"It was roughly a week ago that President Trump tried to answer that question by laying out our guidelines to open up America again, and we believe we've created a framework of three phased approach. When states or counties within states have seen 14 consecutive days of declining cases and have sufficient hospitalization, we believe there is a pathway toward responsibly reopening in a way that will prevent any potential resurgence of the coronavirus," the vice president said.

The White House said it is working closely with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on his reopening plans, but ultimately, it is a decision for the governor and for the people of Florida, Pence added.

"But we're going to be here to help and to support in every way, whether that be offering counsel about data, making sure medical equipment is present should any eventuality arise, continuing to work with your governor to scale testing across the state of Florida and across America," Pence said.

He also addressed criticism over the timeline and the federal government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's been a focus of President Trump from early on -- we want to make sure that American families and employees who are deeply impacted by the coronavirus, which is everybody working outside of essential industries, have the support to make it through this time...whether it be the paid leave provisions that were extended so that people could step away from their jobs while their children were out of school or whether it be the direct support for hospitals or businesses across the country," Mr. Pence said.

The vice president said he has been in contact with executives at area theme parks and is working with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on how to reopen the theme parks safely. 

"We saw the way very early in this process they made the historic decision to shut those operations down. It was a tough call, but it showed the commitment of those companies to put the health of their employees, the health of their visitors first. We commend them for it. We're going to be working very closely with Governor DeSantis to offer our very best guidance about when those theme parks and other areas around the country can begin to reopen to the American people safely and responsibly," Pence added.

There are critics who question the Centers for Disease Control and its changing of coronavirus prevention guidelines since the beginning of the pandemic.  Mr. Pence addressed that issue and criticism that the White House has been overly involved in health policies. 

"We really do believe we are at a place where, at this moment, our healthcare system has met this moment, has not been overwhelmed. That's a tribute to the american people. People six weeks ago took to heart the president's 15 days to slow the spread. They listened carefully to state and local authorities. We have met this moment and confronted this moment," Pence said. "It doesn't mean there haven't been disputes and disagreements along the way."

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