‘Now we’re opening up’: Pence ditches face mask to dine in reopened Florida restaurant

Vice President Mike Pence visited a Florida restaurant alongside that state’s Republican governor on Wednesday for a burger and a discussion about ongoing coronavirus-related recovery plans, Breitbart reported.

Florida has allowed many businesses to reopen after weeks of shutdowns caused by the pandemic. According to Breitbart, Pence entered one such business, Beth’s Burger Bar in Orlando, and set off criticism among those who believed he should have worn a face mask and practiced more robust social distancing measures.

Those present for his arrival, including owner Beth Steele, however, appeared pleased to welcome the high-profile patrons.

“Load it up”

The vice president ordered a cheeseburger, telling Steel to “load it up,” while Gov. Ron DeSantis opted for a burger topped with onions, according to ABC News.

Pence used the opportunity to herald the nation’s apparent progress against a highly communicable virus that has already killed nearly 95,000 Americans, according to reports.

“We really know that we’ve slowed the spread,” the vice president said. “And now we’re opening up.”

Beth’s Burger Bar, like other eateries across the state, is now allowed to serve dine-in guests, though occupancy is limited to half its normal capacity. Steele said that revenue for the business has dropped by a staggering 80%.

Pence spokesman Devin O’Malley addressed the visit, according to ABC News, and confirmed that restaurant guests and employees had their temperature checked prior to Pence’s entry. They were also asked whether they had experienced any possible symptoms associated with the virus.

He said individuals in the restaurant were not tested for coronavirus, though.

“It hasn’t happened”

In comments to reporters later the same day, DeSantis responded to critics of his leadership throughout the current crisis — particularly those who predicted Florida would see a significant spike in infections and death. So far, just over 2,000 residents of the state have died as a result of contracting the virus.

“Part of the reason is that you’ve got a lot of people in your profession who waxed poetically for weeks and weeks about how Florida was going to be just like New York,” he said, according to RealClearPolitics. “Wait two weeks, Florida is going to be next. Just like Italy, wait two weeks. Well, hell, we’re eight weeks away from that and it hasn’t happened.”

Many Americans saw Pence’s trip to a burger joint as further evidence that the Trump administration is downplaying the pandemic. Others, however, see open businesses and positive updates by DeSantis and others as unmistakable signs that the nation is well on its way to recovery.

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