Coronavirus task force addresses spike in new cases in southern states

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The White House Coronavirus Task Force held its first news conference in two months on Friday as cases in the country – particularly in the south – continue to rise.

“Our focus today is very much on the advent of a rising series of new cases across the American South,” Vice President Mike Pence said. “Now’s the time for everybody to continue to do their part.”

Pence led the briefing that focused on 16 states with rising COVID-19 numbers. As cases rise, some states are slowing their steps to reopen.

Texas is closing bars and scaling back restaurant capacity to 50% and Florida is banning alcohol consumption at bars.

“We can always scale back to address the surge but right now, I think we can keep continuing to move forward,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) said Wednesday.

Tillis continues to monitor the cases in his state of North Carolina where a state-wide mask mandate went into effect Friday.

“If we want the economy to open up, distance, wear a facial covering, and get the economy back on track,” Tillis added.

White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci pressed states to stay vigilant.

“You have an individual responsibility to yourself but you (also) have a societal responsibility,” Fauci said.

Pence said it’s up to state and local authorities to decide whether to require social distancing and wearing a mask. But he noted that Americans should be able to make their own choices, including attending Trump rallies without masks.

“I want to remind you again that the freedom of speech and the right to peacefully assemble is enshrined in the constitution of the United States,” Pence said.

Pence is set to travel to coronavirus hot spots Texas, Arizona and Florida in the coming days.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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