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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Pence demonstrates strong leadership in attacking COVID-19

Contrary to some critics, Vice President Mike Pence is leading an aggressive attack against the COVID-19 virus that has infiltrated the U.S.

Reported illnesses of the coronavirus in Indiana have ranged from mild symptoms, including fever, cough and shortness of breath, to severe illness and death. There is currently no vaccine or treatment for this virus.

Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through respiratory droplets released into the air by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands, and touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands.

As Indiana’s governor from 2013 until 2017, Pence oversaw the state’s response to the first U.S. case of MERS-CoV, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, a different type of coronavirus. White House aides believe his experience as governor gives him the necessary platform to work with regional leaders in providing aid for state and local responses to COVID-19.

Now Pence has become the face of the official U.S. response to the spreading virus. A recent photo of the vice-president and his COVID-19 team praying at the White House elicited some sarcastic comments.

Our view is that we are grateful for a vice-president with the humility to lead his team by praying for wisdom and guidance in figuring out how to deal with the spread of the virus in the U.S.

Pence is not the only Hoosier working on the response team. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar is from Indianapolis, Surgeon General Jerome Adams is a former Indiana state health commissioner, and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma is from Carmel.

And now the coronavirus has turned up in Indiana. Three cases were diagnosed in the Indianapolis area, two from people who had traveled to Boston. The latest case is an individual diagnosed at Parkview Noble Hospital.

Meanwhile, Pence’s strategy on COVID-19, according to a Time magazine report, has entailed meetings with health care and pharmaceutical executives, and long-term care providers.

President Trump signed bipartisan legislation Friday to ensure Indiana and the nation have the resources to respond to the coronavirus outbreak through nearly $1 billion approved by Congress to go to state and local health departments.

Overall, according to Time, “Pence has received mixed to positive reviews from regional and other leaders, including Democrats. Pence visited Washington State on Thursday to talk to local leaders about the spike in COVID-19 infections in the Seattle area. During the visit, Jay Inslee, the Democratic governor of Washington State, who had tweeted last week that the Trump administration should ‘stick to science and tell the truth,’ told reporters that he was getting good information from the federal government.”

President Trump has tasked Pence, as Time put it, “to harmonize the administration’s messaging on the virus and to be a senior voice corralling multiple agencies to prepare and respond.” We trust he’ll meet the challenge.

It’s clear Pence is leading a pointed and aggressive response. And it’s also clear that local and state officials aren’t sitting on their hands in the meantime.

In Allen County, Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan has helped mobilize health care forces against the coronavirus.

To keep the community informed on the outbreak, the Allen County Department of Health staff is operating a COVID-19 hotline at (260) 449-4499 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. to address questions and concerns from the public. More information is available on the department website, www.allencountyhealth.com/covid-19.