By Baptist Message staff
BATON ROUGE, La. (LBM) – Vice President Mike Pence, in a visit to Baton Rouge Tuesday, pledged continued support from the White House to help the state reopen schools amid a battle with the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Gathered inside LSU’s Tiger Stadium with Gov. John Bel Edwards, White House COVID-19 task force members, state educational leaders and Louisiana’s delegation to Congress, Pence praised the state‘s efforts to reopen the economy and schools.
“President Trump asked me to be here to send a very clear message to the people of Louisiana,” he said. “We’re with you and we are going to stay with you until we put this coronavirus completely in the past and we open up this economy, open up our schools and we move this state and this nation forward, bigger and better than ever before.”
Pence said despite an increase in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the state, he is confident Louisianans can slow the spread like they have done in the past. Furthermore, he said the White House will help ensure the state has enough testing, medicine and Personal Protective Equipment available to help schools reopen.
“To open up America we’ve got to open up America’s schools,” he said. “We believe it’s absolutely in the best interest of students academically and in terms of every aspect of their personal well being to get kids back in the classroom in k-12 and to get students back on campuses like LSU.”
Pence encouraged residents to wear masks and wash their hands often.
“Each and every one of us has a role to play,” he said. “And we will be able to continue to open up.”
Pence challenged Louisianans to run the race with endurance, referencing Hebrews 12:1 that was the basis of his morning devotional.
“I’m confident that with the endurance, the perseverance and the faith of the people of this great state and this nation, we will be one day closer to putting this coronavirus in the past,” he said.
Edwards said he remains committed to Pence and Louisianans in efforts to flatten the curve and reopen the economy and schools. He encouraged residents to adhere to recommended social distancing guidelines and to wear a mask.
“We are going to be successful,” he said. “We are going to get back on top of this and we are going to flatten the curve. And we look forward to the day when we put this virus behind us.”
Sen. Bill Cassidy acknowledged COVID-19 has impacted Louisiana’s economy, schools and families, and said the state has knowledge gleaned from its experiences to contribute to the revoery of the country.
“We have the ability to not only keep our state healthier but to learn lessons that will benefit the rest of the nation and the rest of the world,” he said. “And that will be our unique contribution to unraveling the public health crisis which therefore makes the education, the employment, the employer and all aspects of this that much better.”
Sen. John Kennedy said America should follow the example of other countries that have reopened their schools safely.
“I can promise you that not opening our schools will do our children so much more harm than the coronavirus ever can,” he said. “And that’s what we need to work so hard on every single day.”
Congressman Steve Scalise added that not reopening schools could impact students negatively.
“It’s got to be our challenge to ensure that we are there for our kids to make sure that they can go back to school and they can go back in a safe way,” he said.
Before the news conference, Congressman Mike Johnson, a member of the First Baptist Church in Bossier City, joined other members of Louisiana’s delegation in a meeting with Pence, the COVID-19 task force and other educators around the state. He took to Facebook to share more about the meeting.
“We had a very productive day in Baton Rouge, and it was an honor to help host Vice President Mike Pence at my alma mater, LSU,” Johnson said. “Key members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force joined our congressional delegation, Gov. Edwards, Coach Orgeron, and the leaders of Louisiana’s higher education institutions to discuss the importance of reopening our schools this fall at every level. All agree that we can do this in a safe manner–and we must. As Vice President Pence said, ‘Louisiana can serve as a model for the rest of the nation.’”
Congressman Ralph Abraham, a member of Alto Baptist Church, added on Twitter that he enjoyed joining Pence “to discuss reopening Louisiana’s schools in a way that keeps both students and teachers healthy while ensuring our young people are able to receive a good education.”