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Vice President Mike Pence To Visit Dallas Sunday To Celebrate Religious Freedom, Discuss Coronavirus

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Vice President Mike Pence will meet with Governor Greg Abbott in Dallas Sunday to discuss the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The meeting will take place with the Governor's medical team at the UT Southwestern campus.

Before that, the Vice President will speak at the Celebrate Freedom event at the First Baptist Church Dallas.

Senior Pastor Robert Jeffress, one of President Trump's evangelical advisers, said Friday he invited the Vice President one year ago.

"It's one of the highlights of our year. Our people love celebrating God's blessings on our nation."

HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson will also speak at the event and Governor Abbott will attend.

Dr. Jeffress said they're expecting between 3,500 and 4,500 people to attend at their various venues across their vast downtown Dallas campus.

Because of Covid-19, Jeffress said they will operate at 70 percent occupancy, take temperature checks when people enter, strongly encourage people to wear masks and practice social-distancing in the common areas.

"I tell our congregation, as Christians we ought to understand that more than anyone that we need to be concerned about our own physical well-being but the well-being of those around who may be more vulnerable to this virus than others."

He acknowledged that wearing masks for some has become a political statement. "I think the virus is a very real threat. I think it's wrong to view it as a political issue. The virus is not Republican or Democrat, it doesn't care who wins in November."

The Vice President's visit comes as Covid-19 cases and related hospitalizations have been rising rapidly by record numbers in Texas during the past couple of weeks.

The number of positive cases in Texas rose by 5,707 Friday to 137,624.

There were 5,102 people in Texas being treated in hospitals for the virus.

The state has 12,398 available hospital beds, 1,284 available ICU beds, and 5,807 ventilators that are available.

On Friday, the Texas Democratic Party held a virtual news conference featuring various North Texas elected leaders who criticized the President's, Vice President's, and Governor Abbott's response to the pandemic.

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas said, "Mr. Vice President, we need your attention in this area. "We've had confusing type of instructions for people to follow in terms of masks and protecting themselves."

She also complained that the state does not have enough tests for residents in under-served communities.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said, "Once again, the Governor is slow to act. He is now being forced to do things that we've been demanding that he do for the last month and a half."

But Texas GOP Chair James Dickey pointed to the State of New York, where nearly 25,000 people have died related to the virus.

The number of Texans who died reached 2,324 Friday.

Dickey said, "They should be running Governor Cuomo from New York out of town on the rails since his is by far the worst."

The Vice President's visit to Dallas comes more than two weeks after President Trump held a roundtable meeting on policing reform at a Dallas Church.

While the Cook Political Report shows Texas still leans Republican, various recent polls in the Lone Star State show a very tight race between President Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.

State Representative Chris Turner, who serves as Chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus said, "I think the Trump campaign is well aware of it and that's why you saw the President in Texas a week or two weeks ago and you see the Vice President here this weekend."

Dickey rejected the polls. "We've seen repeated times this some narrative of a poll showing impending disaster only to be proven wrong on election night."

But he said he warns Republicans, even though Texas remains a red state, they need to earn every vote and they can't take anything for granted.

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