BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — The nation’s second-in-command visited the home of college football’s reigning national champions Tuesday, sharing his goal to reopen schools to in-person instruction within months.
Vice President Mike Pence held a roundtable discussion at Tiger Stadium with Gov. John Bel Edwards, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, LSU football coach Ed Orgeron, state education leaders and members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation. He called on K-12 and higher education campuses to reopen next semester, even as Louisiana ranks third in reported COVID-19 cases per capita nationwide.
“Kids are better off, in terms of their overall health and well-being, in school than out of school,” Pence said.
Edwards, a Democrat who boasts a strong working relationship with the Republican White House, voiced tempered agreement on reopening school facilities.
“Our plan is to open as many schools — K-12, higher education — for in-person instruction on campus, as we can safely do,” he said.
But the governor maintains remote learning will stay part of the mix as well for many schools — including those still debating how to handle the upcoming school year. LSU is one of the schools likely to hold online courses along with in-person ones, with mask-wearing and social distancing likely.
“I believe in prayer, and I believe in work,” Edwards said. “We’re going to do both in Louisiana, because that’s what we’ve done as long as we’ve been a state.”
Pence praised Edwards’ response to the pandemic so far, including the statewide mask mandate the governor enacted Monday.
“Wear a mask whenever state and local authorities say it’s indicated or whenever social distancing is not possible,” he said. “Each and every one of us has a role to play.”
But Pence stopped short of supporting larger-scale orders on mask use.
“There are many states in the country where it may not be possible to wear a mask,” the vice president said. “We think it’s always important to recognize the unique circumstances of each state and community.”
Louisiana’s mask mandate could stretch into next month, when college football teams normally prepare to play. The extent to which Southeastern Conference teams, including LSU, will play remains unclear. Pence and Orgeron — who sat next to one another at Tuesday’s roundtable — voiced their hopes for a season.
“We have our team back, ready to go,” Orgeron said. “We need football.”
“It’s important not just for student-athletes, not just for LSU, but it’s important for America,” Pence said. “The American people love football.”