‘We have to open up the schools’: Vice President Mike Pence discusses schools, higher education at Marian University


INDIANAPOLIS — Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Indianapolis Friday to discuss reopening schools in the coming months amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Air Force Two landed at Indianapolis International Airport around 10:15 a.m. The vice president and Second Lady Karen Pence waved as they walked off the plane.

After that, it was off to Marian University. The vice president, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, Gov. Eric Holcomb and officials from Marian University joined the discussion.

Pence’s visit comes a day after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines strongly in favor of reopening schools. The agency said children don’t suffer much from the coronavirus and are less likely than adults to spread it.

Holcomb started the Marian event with a glowing introduction for the vice president, thanking Pence for the administration’s guidance during the pandemic.

In turn, Pence commended Holcomb for his leadership and said the federal government would continue to provide support.

 “We’re going to stay with you every step of the way to make sure Indiana has the resources they need,” Pence said.

“While Indiana has made steady progress in opening up again and positivity remains below 10%, we recognize the losses to people in this state,” he said. “You are in our thoughts and in our prayers.”

Pence said federal government will continue to make sure supplies like PPE and medications like Remdesivir are readily available.

According to Pence, nearly 80,000 loans had been distributed to Hoosier businesses to keep them afloat and pay employees. He mentioned that the “Indiana 500 is just around the corner” and insisted that things were getting better in the state.

On Friday, the Indiana State Department of Health reported a record number of COVID-19 cases with 1,011; the state had previously reported a record number of cases on Thursday.

The vice president said residents have a role to play by practicing good hygiene, engaging in social distancing and wearing masks in places where they’ve been mandated.

“To open up America again, we have to open up the schools,” Pence said. “Opening up the schools again is the best thing for our kids and for our working families.”

The vice president also thanked all educators “who are working hard to get our young people back on campus.”

DeVos encouraged everyone to work together during difficult times.

“Let’s work together. We can find a silver lining in these times,” DeVos said of the pandemic, adding that educators can meet the needs of students and keep them safe.

Birx, who thanked Holcomb for providing her with a state of Indiana mask, commended Hoosiers for their response.

She started out her remarks by mentioning sports and the sense of teamwork they instill in people. She said the country has to approach reopening with the same team-focused approach—everyone has to do their part.

“Really, [we’re] calling on Americans to bring that same teamwork, bring that sense of wearing a mask, not going to a bar, not creating indoor social gathering experiences so that all of the states like Indiana can return their students and their teachers back to school,” Birx said.

Marian University officials discussed some of their precautions, which included an app with protocols for telehealth services and quarantine procedures.

Bathrooms and residence halls remain the biggest challenge for most colleges and universities. There will be frequent disinfecting of bathrooms and masks will be required indoors and outdoors in situations in which social distancing is not possible.

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