Donna Shalala rips Mike Pence ahead of Miami visit
Donna Shalala blasts the administration's slow walk on granting TPS to Venezualeans.

The group took issue with plans to reopen schools.

U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala and a chorus of south Florida leaders welcomed Vice President Mike Pence to Miami on Monday but questioned his leadership in ameliorating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shalala, the former U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services and President of the University of Miami, hosted a conference call with several fellow Democratic party leaders on Monday, and she said Pence and President Donald Trump have a lot of questions to answer.

“It’s OK that the Vice President came down here to celebrate progress at the University of Miami in searching for a COVID-19 vaccine,” Shalala said of Pence’s Monday visit. “But I want to point out this administration tried to cut the [National Institute of Health] budget repeatedly and fought us on putting money in for vaccine research repeatedly. He has no standing for this celebration because they did everything they could to weaken the great research universities in this country.”

Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez and Rep. Javier Fernandez as well as Florida teachers Karla Hernandez-Mats, Keegan Schlake and Jessica Harrington joined the call.

Right now, Shalala said, there are just too many questions to force students back into school recklessly, and the Trump administration hasn’t really gone about answering them.

“When we have this kind of community spread of COVID-19, it’s not possible to re-open schools,” Shalala said. “Parents are scared, kids are scared, teachers are scared. Why would we put our teachers at risk? Why would we put our children at risk?”

“We all believe in strengthening the economy. But the economy will be strengthened when we reduce the amount of COVID-19 infections in our community and when people stop dying unnecessarily.”

Rodriguez, who represents Florida’s 37th senate district, said the Trump administration and Gov. Ron DeSantis have been more interested in spreading misinformation than solving the crisis. 

“Trump ran for this job. DeSantis ran for this job. Neither of them have to run for re-election,” said Rodriguez. “If they don’t want to do the job, step aside. That’s honestly the message I have to convey. We’re in a state where we have had over 100 deaths for the fifth day in a row. The needs of students, parents, teachers — our community — have to be put front and center.”

“And instead the Trump circus is in town. They’ve sent us Pence here to Florida yet again.”

Pence met with DeSantis in Tampa earlier this month.

Hernandez-Mats, president of United Teachers of Dade, said she is a middle school teacher and also the parent of two elementary age children. She has several family members who tested positive for COVID-19, and she understands the perils of both returning to work and sending her children back to school.

“We want to be in classrooms. Virtual learning and virtual teaching has been exhausting,” she said. “My kids miss their classmates. My kids miss their teachers. And we miss the normalcy of regular day life. But here’s the thing: We want to be incubators of knowledge, not incubators of a virus.”

Schlake, an Orlando teacher, told a similar account.

He said he’s been at his school for 10 years and has an average of 150 kids cycled through his classrooms.

Every day, Schlake said, students stand shoulder to shoulder by the thousands in school hallways. His classroom can’t physically hold 25 people who are socially distanced. So how is he supposed to feel comfortable returning to work?

“Like every other teacher, I’m dying to get back into the classroom. But I don’t want to die going back into the classroom,” said Schlake, who teaches AP government and macroeconomics. “In these times, I simply can’t think about myself. I have a wife and I have four kids. If I were younger and in perfect health with no wife or kids, I might be less scared.”

“But regardless of each person’s situation, the choices we make now are going to affect so many more lives.”

Spencer Fordin

Spencer Fordin grew up in Port Washington, N.Y. and holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida. Before working for, he spent 16 seasons with and nearly three years as a general assignment reporter in the Cayman Islands. You can reach Spencer at [email protected].


  • William J LePetomane

    July 29, 2020 at 10:00 am

    Why people were dumb enough to put this Clinton loving hag in office is beyond me.


    July 29, 2020 at 11:16 am

    (NASTY REMARK, must be a Republican..they’re the ones making them if you notice.)

    What the Rest of us, who think, would die for is exactly what William derides, ….with Hillary in office, we would have: a naturally growing economy,not the deadly one we Do have now. We’d still have the superbly well-equipped and organized agency to deal with this pandemic….IF ONLY Trump had NOT destroyed the organization we had already that was READY-TO-GO: no denials of the threat of a pan -demic, deft Plans, Global organization, and a full complement of wonderful Pandemic experts==we had them all, ready, but trump went on his rampage and destroyed all that valuable messagesQ. Now we STILL DON’T HAVE ENOUGH PPEs for the nurses and doctors caring for pandemic victims in ICUs etc! LET ALONE, I DON;T KNOW ABOUT YOU, BUT WE ARE APPALLED THAT OUR PRESIDENT SEEMINGLY LIMITS THEIR PROFESSIONAL EQUIPMENT FOR PANDEMICS.!


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