Mike Pence plans to be at White House despite aide’s positive COVID-19 test

Nation/world

Vice President Mike Pence is not planning to enter self-quarantine after his press secretary tested positive for coronavirus on Friday and plans to be at the White House on Monday, his office said on Sunday.

Pence spokesperson Devin O’Malley said the vice president “will continue to follow the advice of the White House Medical Unit and is not in quarantine.”

“Additionally, Vice President Pence has tested negative every single day and plans to be at the White House tomorrow,” O’Malley said in the statement.

The announcement comes as the White House continues to urge governors to begin reopening their states even as the virus has edged closer to the West Wing with news that top members of the coronavirus task force will self-quarantine, in some form, after coming in contact with an individual who tested positive for the virus.

An official said there is extreme sensitivity inside the White House at the current state of affairs with officials recognizing the contradiction in telling states to reopen while the White House enhances protocols to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The official said Pence’s schedule will probably be on the lighter side in the coming days, but that he’s not doing a full self-quarantine.

Those steps come after President Donald Trump confirmed on Friday that Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, tested positive for the virus. The President said that Miller has not come into contact with him but noted that she has been in contact with Pence.

“She’s a wonderful young woman, Katie, she tested very good for a long period of time and then all of a sudden today she tested positive,” Trump said during a meeting with Republican members of Congress at the White House.

The news of Miller’s positive test has left everyone in the West Wing of the White House genuinely nervous, one White House source previously told CNN. The source said Miller’s nature is to communicate in person so she makes lots of in-person contacts during her day-to-day work.

Her husband, Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller, is not expected to go to the White House for the immediate future, people familiar with his plans told the New York Times. He tested negative for the virus on Friday, the newspaper said.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and US Surgeon General Jerome Adams, however, have both tested negative for the virus, according to government spokespeople. They are not planning to self-quarantine as of now.

HHS spokesperson Caitlan Oakley said Azar “will follow the advice of his physicians at the White House Medical Unit.”

And, a spokesperson for the Surgeon General said, “Surgeon General Adams was last tested for COVID-19 on Friday, May 8, and the results were negative. He was not in contact with anyone who has tested positive and at this time, has had no known exposure to the virus.

“Dr. Adams already participates in most meetings and events virtually, and will continue to do so. If the White House Medical Unit recommends any changes in Dr. Adams’ practices, he will of course comply.”

An HHS spokesperson told CNN Sunday evening that Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir is also not planning to self-quarantine.

Giroir is the federal official coordinating testing efforts and has attended some of the White House coronavirus task force meetings. He hasn’t been to the White House since May 5, the spokesperson said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, told CNN Saturday he will begin a “modified quarantine” after making a “low risk” contact with the White House staffer who tested positive for the virus.

He is not doing a full quarantine like Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Hahn came into contact with an individual who tested positive for coronavirus, an FDA official confirmed to CNN on Friday. Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will also self-quarantine for two weeks after he was exposed to a person at the White House who tested positive for Covid-19, a CDC spokesperson confirmed to CNN.

The White House would not say Sunday whether Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, or any key officials in Pence’s office were self-quarantining.

Trump’s mood

In conversations this weekend, Trump has expressed concern that aides contracting coronavirus would undercut his message that the outbreak is waning and states should begin reopening, according to a person who spoke to him.

Trump voiced frustration that two White House staffers tested positive for coronavirus and has asked why his valets weren’t ordered to wear masks before this week, according to the person.

Trump believes an economic rebound will only come when governors decide to lift restrictions and is concerned at any signs the virus is resurgent.

At the same time, the President has told people he doesn’t want to be near anyone who hasn’t been tested and has bristled when coming into contact with some people at the White House, according to the person who spoke to him.

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