US Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 outbreak at the White House on February 26, 2020. - US President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his administration's response to the novel coronavirus, lashing the media for spreading panic as he conducts an evening news conference on the epidemic. (ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)

Pence won't isolate along with task force members as White House cases bring virus closer to Trump

Dr. Anthony Fauci and the heads of the CDC and FDA will self-quarantine after possible exposure — but not Pence



Igor Derysh
May 11, 2020 4:23PM (UTC)

Vice President Mike Pence will not self-quarantine and continue to work at the White House after his aide tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

Pence had been self-isolating after his press secretary Katie Miller, the wife of top Trump adviser Stephen Miller, received her test results Friday, according to Bloomberg News. But spokesman Devin O'Malley said Sunday that Pence "will continue to follow the advice of the White House Medical Unit and is not in quarantine."

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"Additionally, Vice President Pence has tested negative every single day and plans to be at the White House tomorrow," O'Malley said.

Miller's positive test rocked the White House last week. Along with Miller, a valet for President Donald Trump and an assistant to his daughter and White House adviser Ivanka Trump also tested positive last week.

"She's a wonderful young woman, Katie," Trump said Friday. "She tested very good for a long period of time, and then all of a sudden, today, she tested positive."

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Administration officials have taken different approaches in response to the positive tests.

Stephen Miller, who tested negative Friday, is not expected to work from the White House in the immediate future, according to The New York Times.

Dr. Stephen Hahn, the head of the Food and Drug Administration, will self-quarantine for 14 days after coming in contact with an individual who tested positive, the agency told CNN. It remains unclear if the staffer he came in contact with was Miller.

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Hahn is a member of the White House coronavirus task force, which is led by Pence. He tested negative Friday.

Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "will be teleworking for the next two weeks," a CDC spokesperson told The Washington Post, after "low-risk exposure" to a person who tested positive. Redfield is also a member of the task force.

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"In the event Dr. Redfield must go to the White House to fulfill any responsibilities as part of White House Coronavirus Task Force work, he will follow the safety practices set out by the CDC for those who may have been exposed," the statement said. "Those guidelines call for Dr. Redfield and anyone working on the Task Force at the White House to have their temperature taken and screened for symptoms each day, wear a face covering and distance themselves from others."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN that he would begin a "modified quarantine," meaning he plans to mostly remain at home but potentially go to the office when no one else is present. Fauci, who tested negative Saturday, is one of the leading members of the task force.

Fauci, Redfield and Hahn are all expected to testify to the Senate about the Trump administration's coronavirus response via teleconference, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, told CNN.

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Hours later, Alexander's office announced that he himself would chair the hearing from home after beginning a 14-day self-quarantine "out of an abundance of caution" following an aide's positive test.

On the other hand, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir and Surgeon General Jerome Adams, all members of the task force, are not planning to self-quarantine.

Trump has "expressed concerns" that the positive tests "would undercut his message that the outbreak is waning" and questioned why his valets were not ordered to wear masks before one of them tested positive, CNN reported.

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The White House sent out a memo after Miller's positive test Friday urging staffers to work from home as much as possible. The memo said that "high-touch points" at the White House will see "heightened levels of cleaning."

The heightened concerns come as Trump pushes states to reopen in hopes of a resurgent economy ahead of Election Day. Trump does not want to be around anyone who has not been tested, though he has dismissed governors' concerns over lack of testing for the public, CNN reported.

"I don't think you need that kind of testing or that much testing," Trump claimed last week.

But now officials at the White House are said to be experiencing the same anxiety that workers around the country face if called back to work.

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"It is scary to go to work," White House adviser Kevin Hassett told CBS News. "I was not part of the White House in March. I think that I'd be a lot safer if I was sitting at home instead of going to the West Wing. But, you know, it's a time when people have to step up and serve their country."


Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is a staff writer at Salon. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

Tips/Email: iderysh@salon.com Twitter: @IgorDerysh

MORE FROM Igor Derysh


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Anthony Fauci Coronavirus Covid-19 Donald Trump Katie Miller Mike Pence Politics Stephen Miller

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