Pence Praises Texas Governor for Reopening as State's COVID-19 Cases Spike

Vice President Mike Pence praised Texas Governor Greg Abbott's leadership for lifting the state's COVID-19 lockdown, then for halting plans amid a spike in coronavirus cases.

The White House long pushed for states to reopen, with President Donald Trump expressing his desire for the economy to get back to full speed and releasing proposals on how they should do so in April.

Under Abbott, Texas was one of the first states to begin lifting restrictions back in May. However, it has since paused its progress in reopening to combat a rising number of new cases and fresh restrictions placed on bars, restaurants, and outdoor gatherings.

Pence, speaking at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center on Sunday, said the White House would support the state through the rise in cases.

"President Trump wanted us to be here today with the developments over the last two weeks—with the rising positivity, and the rising number of cases—with a very simple message," Pence said.

"And that is, to you, to the people of Texas: We're with you, and we're going to stay with you. We're going to make sure that Texas and your healthcare system in Texas have the resources, have the supplies, have the personnel to meet this moment."

He went on to thank Abbott for having reopened the state when he did, then also praised putting measures back in place.

"I also want to commend the governor for your decisive action. Reopening this economy, which began in early May, is a tribute to your leadership and the steady progress in putting Texas back to work. It's something every Texan can be proud of," Pence said.

"But with the development of these new cases—as you said, going from 2,000 a day to 5,000 a day; positivity rate going from roughly 4 percent to 13 percent—we're grateful, governor, that you've taken the steps that you've taken to limit the kind of gatherings and meeting in certain places in communities that may well be contributing to the community spread that we're seeing in Texas and in states like Arizona and Florida and California as well."

Texas has grappled with a major spike in COVID-19 cases in recent days as ICUs filled with patients and a children's hospital in Houston took in adults for treatment amid increased demand for medical services.

Commenting on the rising cases, Abbott said Sunday: "COVID-19 has taken a very swift and very dangerous turn in Texas over just the past few weeks."

Abbott has also expressed regrets over aspects of reopening, stating he would have moved more cautiously with bars in hindsight.

"If I could go back and redo anything, it probably would have been to slow down the opening of bars, now seeing in the aftermath of how quickly the coronavirus spread in the bar setting," he said in an interview with KVIA.

Last week, Texas broke its record for the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in a single day. On Wednesday, the state saw 6,584 new cases while it has recorded more than 5,000 the day before and each day since.

Newsweek has contacted the White House and Governor Abbott's office for further comment.

Texas is not the only state suffering from a spike. Florida is seeing a surge too, reporting more than 8,000 news cases Sunday. Arizona also saw its highest daily rise in cases since the outbreak began, with upwards of 3,850 confirmed Sunday.

The U.S. has had more than 2.5 million confirmed cases since the outbreak began, according to Johns Hopkins University figures.

Over the weekend the global death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 500,000.

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Vice President Mike Pence speaks after leading a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the Department of Health and Human Services on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. He recently commented on the situation in Texas, which has seen a surge in cases. Joshua Roberts/Getty Images