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Trump visits Florida amid state's dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases

By Don Jacobson
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Trump visits Florida amid state's dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases
President Donald Trump responds to a question Friday from the media as he walks to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by Shawn Thew/UPI | License Photo

July 10 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump traveled to South Florida Friday to visit U.S. Southern Command to discuss anti-drug military operations and meet with Venezuelans in the state, as it struggles to handle a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases.

Trump was scheduled to visit Southern Command headquarters in Doral, and then to a nearby church to meet with Venezuelan citizens, and finally to a private residence to meet with campaign supporters.

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Trump arrived at Southern Command and was briefed on the Enhanced Counternarcotics Operations, which aims to stem the flow of illegal drugs coming through the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific.

The effort also seeks to increase pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who has been charged by U.S. officials of orchestrating drug and terrorism conspiracies. He and 14 other Venezuelan officials were indicted on drug trafficking charges in March.

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The operation has included an Air Force deployment to Curacao last month and an Army deployment to Colombia in May, as well as operations in the Caribbean and Venezuela. The efforts have resulted in seizures worth more than $1 billion, according to the Miami Herald.

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Trump will deliver remarks at about 1:40 p.m. discussing enhanced counternarcotics operations.

Afterward visiting SOUTHCOM, Trump will visit the Iglesia Doral Jesus Worship Center in Doral, which is home to the largest Venezuelan community in the United States. There, at abut 2 p.m., he will participate in a roundtable event on "supporting the people of Venezuela," the White House said.

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Trump then travels to Hillsboro Beach, near Boca Raton, for a private campaign fundraiser with supporters and the Republican National Committee at about 5 p.m.

An invitation sent to GOP donors indicated a contribution of at least $580,600 per couple is required to attend the event.

Trump is not scheduled to visit his Mar-a-Lago resort in nearby Palm Beach, and will instead return to Washington, D.C., just before 10 p.m. Friday evening.

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The trip comes amid significant surges in COVID-19 cases in Florida recently and at a time the state's hospital capacity is becoming strained. The state reported 120 deaths Thursday, its highest one-day total, and officials say half of all ICU centers in Florida are at least 90 percent full.

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The Republican National Convention is still scheduled to visit Jacksonville, Fla., in August, but residents have filed a lawsuit against the city to block the event, citing the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic. Several Republican senators have said this week they won't attend the event, which is scheduled from Aug. 25 through Aug. 27. The first night, Aug. 24, will be held in Charlotte, N.C.

With 29 electoral votes, Florida is considered vital by analysts to Trump's re-election in November. In 2016, he defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in Florida by about 1 percent.

Christen McCurdy contributed to this report

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