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Arizona's Congressional Delegation Divided On Vice President's Ability To Handle Coronavirus Outbreak

President Trump named Vice President Mike Pence to head the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 coronavirus. On Friday, the World Health Organization raised the global risk level for the virus from High to Very High but hasn’t yet declared the virus a pandemic.

As expected, the reaction to the president's decision is largely split along party lines — including in Arizona’s congressional delegation.

Republican David Schweikert says the person leading the response doesn’t need to be a medical expert — just a leader.

"There’s hundreds of moving parts here, and we have incredible specialists for each of those parts," Schweikert said. "On occasion, the bureaucracy is your enemy. Who do you have that could push the bureaucracy? The vice president."

Echoing Schweikert, Rep. Debbie Lesko says she supports the president's decision.

"Vice President Pence is in charge, and I know he's taking it very seriously," she said. "It's a serious issue. President Trump has told people under him to do whatever it takes to make sure America's safe. You don't want to panic the public too much."

Democrat Ruben Gallego says Pence has a losing record when it comes to handling disease outbreaks, given Pence's response to an HIV outbreak in Indiana while serving as governor.

"He actually had an HIV outbreak in his state as governor and didn’t adequately handle that," Gallego said. "This is not a situation for us to think politically. We need to get the brightest minds working on it."

Scott Bourque was a reporter and podcast producer at KJZZ from 2019 to 2022.