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Pence visits West Virginia, pledges resources to combat COVID-19

In this photo made available by the West Virginia's governor's office, Vice President Mike Pence, left, meets with Gov. Jim Justice at Justice's resort, The Greenbrier, in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., to discuss the coronavirus and a fundraiser for the Trump-Pence campaign. (Office of the Governor via AP)

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence visited West Virginia on Saturday to congratulate Gov. Jim Justice, a fellow Republican, on his response to the coronavirus.

Pence pledged to make sure West Virginia continues to have the resources it needs “not just to protect the vulnerable and save lives, but to continue to open up your economy.

“West Virginia has been going back to work and very soon West Virginia will be going back to school,” Pence said.

Pence stressed that both he and President Donald Trump believe the U.S. must open up its public schools and congratulated Justice on his work to make that happen.

On Friday, Justice rolled out a color-coded map to show residents of West Virginia counties whether in-class education would be considered safe in their communities. It is based on a rolling 7-day average of new virus cases, adjusted per 100,000 people. No schools are allowed to reopen until Sept. 8.

Pence said he and the president don’t want students to fall behind academically or miss out on essential services like special education, meals and counselling. He also said in-person schooling is necessary for many parents to return to work.

“I saw a statistic that only 1 in 5 single parents in this country can telework,” Pence said. “That means 8 in 10 single parents can’t go back to work if their kids don’t go back to school.”

Justice said the Trump administration has been essential to the state’s efforts to fight the virus. As of Saturday, West Virginia had reported 8,457 cases and 160 deaths. Justice said the low numbers are not the result of West Virginia’s mountainous terrain and rural character.

“We’ve done the right things here, and we’ve done them from the standpoint of just this — we have stayed together,” he said. “But we could have never done this without the Trump team.”

Attending the briefing were top Republican officials from the state including U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, U.S. Rep. Carol Miller and U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney.

Pence was also slated to attend a fundraiser at the Justice-owned resort near the Virginia border. The luncheon to support the Trump-Pence campaign is hosted by Justice and starts at $2,800 a plate with prices as high as $25,000 a person for roundtable seating.

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