Sanders rips Pence: His last response to an epidemic was to 'pray' it away

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump signs order removing environmental reviews for major projects | New Trump air rule will limit future pollution regulations, critics say | DNC climate group calls for larger federal investment on climate than Biden plan Google: Chinese and Iranian hackers targeting Biden, Trump campaigns Sanders: Police departments that violate civil rights should lose federal funding MORE (I-Vt.) on Wednesday slammed President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal plan to contain Washington protests employs 7,600 personnel: report GOP Rep calls on primary opponent to condemn campaign surrogate's racist video Tennessee court rules all registered voters can obtain mail-in ballots due to COVID-19 MORE’s appointment of Vice President Pence as point man on the coronavirus outbreak, noting the HIV outbreak that occurred during Pence’s tenure as governor of Indiana as well as Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar’s refusal to promise that a coronavirus vaccine would be affordable to all.

“Trump's plan for the coronavirus so far:

-Cut winter heating assistance for the poor

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-Have VP Pence, who wanted to 'pray away' HIV epidemic, oversee the response

-Let ex-pharma lobbyist Alex Azar refuse to guarantee affordable vaccines to all

Disgusting,” Sanders tweeted Wednesday.

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Sanders embedded a clip of Azar, under questioning from Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyHillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers Democrats call on FTC to investigate allegations of TikTok child privacy violations Hillicon Valley: Facebook permanently shifting thousands of jobs to remote work | Congressional action on driverless cars hits speed bump during pandemic | Republicans grill TikTok over data privacy concerns MORE (D-Ill.), saying “we would want to make sure that we worked to make” a vaccine affordable to anyone in need of it, “but we can’t control that price, because we need the private sector to invest.”

Pence faced widespread criticism as governor of Indiana following an HIV outbreak in Scott County led to more than 200 cases in 2015 after Pence and GOP state lawmakers defunded Planned Parenthood, which was one of the primary vectors of HIV testing in the county.

The then-governor, asked if he would support a needle exchange program to slow the HIV spread, said, “I’m going to go home and pray on it.” He would later sign legislation for a temporary exchange program two months after the outbreak was initially detected.

Pence said Wednesday at a press conference with Trump and public health officials that his role in a possible coronavirus outbreak would be to bring Trump “the best options for action” and to “see to the safety and well-being and health of the American people.”

The coronavirus has infected more than 80,000 people globally and with more than 2,500 deaths.

The World Health Organization announced Wednesday that for the first time since the outbreak began in December, more new cases were being reported outside of China than in it.