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Pence, Gov. Baker meet on Nantucket to talk virus response

Gov. Charles Baker listens to Vice President Michael Pence speak about the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Nantucket on Saturday afternoon. Pence visited Nantucket for a campaign fundraising event.
Gov. Charles Baker listens to Vice President Michael Pence speak about the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Nantucket on Saturday afternoon. Pence visited Nantucket for a campaign fundraising event.Merrily Cassidy/Cape Cod Times/Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence met briefly Saturday with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker while Pence visited the famous island getaway of Nantucket to headline a $25,000-ticket fundraiser for President Donald Trump administration’s reelection campaign.

Pence, who heads the White House's Coronavirus Task Force, praised Baker's efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, which has among the highest death tolls from the virus in the nation, at more than 8,200.

“We're with you, and we're going to stay with you every step of the way until we put the coronavirus in the past,” Pence said in an appearance with Baker at Nantucket Memorial Airport.

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In a Tweet posted after the meeting, Pence pledged federal support for the state and pushed for reopening schools. Massachusetts school districts are currently forming individual plans for the fall, which are expected to be submitted to the state by the end of the month.

Baker, a Republican who didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 and has at times been critical of his administration’s response to the pandemic, thanked Pence for his task force’s work, which he said has been “enormously helpful and supportive.”

He said he'd spent about an hour with Admiral Brett Giroir, who oversees coronavirus testing as Trump's assistant secretary for health, before meeting with Pence to talk about “all the things that keep me up at night" concerning the virus.

Baker on Friday announced strict new travel restrictions to control spread of the virus, including mandating anyone traveling to the state to self-quarantine for 14 days. Massachusetts has been among the hardest hit states for the virus, with nearly 8,300 recorded deaths.

Baker was not expected to attend the lunchtime fundraiser at the home of Putnam Investments CEO Robert Reynolds.

Pence's visit, which was greeted with a mix of curious onlookers and protests on the island off Cape Cod, came as Nantucket is seeing an increase in coronavirus cases.

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Local health officials say 24 of the island’s total 38 cases have come in the past month, with nine of them reported in roughly the last week.

Roughly 60% of those who have tested positive on the island are in their 20s and 30s, though a man in his 80s has died, town officials said.

Nantucket officials say the rise in cases is attributed to increased virus testing and the arrival of the summer vacation crowd.

Massachusetts health officials reported 12 new deaths and 210 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to more than 108,000 cases since the pandemic started.