As the United States continues to combat the threat of the coronavirus, Vice President Mike Pence continued his tour across the lower 48 to meet with companies and communities who have been affected. The vice president’s latest trip brought him to the Cyclone state on Friday, meeting with a selection of religious leaders and the members of the food processing industry to discuss the effects coronavirus has had on their fields.
The vice president’s trip to Iowa was delayed, however, as a member of his staff – press secretary Katie Miller – had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Traveling to Iowa on Air Force 2 with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, Pence was greeted at the tarmac by Governor Kim Reynolds, who had just been in the oval to discuss Iowa’s meatpacking plants just a day before.
Pence’s first meeting took place at Westkirk Presbyterian Church in Urbandale, where he spoke with faith leaders from across the state about re-opening houses of worship. Back in March, Gov. Kim Reynold’s ordered a State of Public Health Disaster closing stores, restaurants, and churches. However, the governor has announced measures to slowly re-open the state, with restrictions lifted on religious services on May 1.
Noting that it was the first time in weeks that he had been to a church service, Pence, commended religious leaders for providing comfort for the nation through their efforts to bring services online. However, religious leaders shared their concerns that it was too early to reopen their doors.
“We are pretty much in a position of uniformly believing that it’s too early to return to personal worship,” David Kaufman, rabbi of Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Des Moines told Pence and other attendees. “It’s inadvisable at the moment particularly with rising case counts in communities where we are across the state.”
Pence, Perdue, and Iowa’s delegation also held a roundtable discussion with leaders of the food processing industry at the Hy-Vee headquarters in Des Moines. Meatpacking plants have become a cause for concern nationwide as facilities have become hotspots for the coronavirus.
Gov. Reynolds’ continued to receive praise for the steps that she’s taken to combat the coronavirus. “From very early on, the strong steps and mitigation efforts have made a difference here. We grieve the loss of life here in Iowa, but the numbers speak for themselves,” Pence said. “The outbreak in Iowa has not been like we’ve seen in other states and other metropolitan areas around the country. It’s a tribute to your early, strong steps.”
Iowa, which is responsible for 10 percent of the nation’s food production, has seen some of its largest facilities close as thousands of workers have fallen ill – leaving farmers with no choice but to slaughter animals at a loss and concern of the food supply chain’s stability to grow.
President Trump recently used the Defense Production Act to signify the critical importance of the food processing industry to ensure the plants stayed open. Meanwhile, the administration announced $19 billion in aid for farmers who have struggled with the effects of the coronavirus.
However, the Republican National Committee took the vice president’s visit as a moment to celebrate the work of the Trump Administration. “The Trump administration’s commitment to protecting our nation from COVID-19 is bolstered by Vice President Mike Pence’s return to the Hawkeye State,” the RNC Spokesperson Preya Samsundar said in a statement. “Whether it’s providing economic relief for Iowa families, farmers, and small businesses, or learning more about Iowa’s role in the nation’s food supply chain, Hawkeye Staters know the Trump Administration will always put them first.”