- More than a dozen people who may work near President Trump and Vice President Pence have tested positive for the coronavirus this week.
- On Friday, Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller tested positive for the virus. Eleven Secret Service agents have also tested positive for COVID-19, along with one of President Trump’s valets. Ivanka Trump’s assistant has also caught the coronavirus, but that person has been working remotely for weeks.
- Because the virus spreads easily when people are in close contact, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention urges anyone who’s been exposed to someone who’s caught the coronavirus to stay home for 14 days.
- FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, who worked with Miller recently, said he’ll stay home for the next two weeks, but the President and Vice President remain out and about.
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The coronavirus arrived at the White House this week.
Vice President Mike Pence’s Press Secretary, Katie Miller, tested positive for the virus on Friday.
“She tested very good for a long period of time, and then all of a sudden today she tested positive,” President Trump said on Friday. “She hasn’t come into contact with me. She’s spent some time with the vice president.”
In addition to being one of Pence’s aides, Miller is also the wife of Stephen Miller, who is one of Trump’s senior advisors and works closely with the President.
Miller’s is not the first infection at the White House, either. On Thursday, CNN reported that one of Trump’s valets, who handles the President’s drinks, had also tested positive for COVID-19.
“I’ve had very little contact with this person,” Trump said of the valet on Thursday.
At least 11 secret service members are also sick with the coronavirus, and 60 more are self-quarantining, according to Yahoo News. Ivanka Trump’s personal assistant also reportedly has the virus, though that person has been teleworking for weeks, so they would not have exposed the first family to their illness.
Vice President Pence and President Trump are now both being tested daily for the coronavirus and continued to test negative as of Friday.
The FDA Commissioner is self-quarantining for 14 days because he worked with Miller, even though he also tests negative for the virus
But the White House’s own coronavirus guidance urges people who’ve been exposed to COVID-19 to stay home, and away from others who haven’t been exposed to the virus for 14 days, even if they’re not sick.
That’s what FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn, who’d also recently been around Miller, is doing, as Politico reported Friday.
“In the span of hours, the coronavirus task force was likely exposed, the vice president was definitely exposed, and a top health official can’t come into the office,” one senior administration official told Politico.
The coronavirus is highly contagious and may spread easily between people who aren’t showing symptoms, which is why it’s critical for people to stay home when they have been exposed to a sick person, even if they aren’t feeling ill. People over 60 (which Trump and Pence both are) are also at a much higher risk of developing some of the virus’s most severe complications, making social distancing even more critical for the pair right now.
Trump and Pence should, at the very least, be wearing masks
Since not everyone can stay home, even when they’re sick, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has issued special guidance for essential workers who’ve had close contact with an infected person. The guidance says they can still go to work, if they must, but only so long as they wear a mask for 14 days after their exposure, maintain a 6-foot distance from others, monitor themselves for symptoms, and disinfect workspaces regularly.
Neither Pence nor Trump has been wearing a mask, though.
Recent studies have suggested that the coronavirus thrives especially well in enclosed, indoor workplaces where people sit next to each other, chat, and exchange air all day long.
One recent study of a call centre in South Korea demonstrated just how challenging doing business together in a closed space can be: 94 employees on a single floor all came down with the coronavirus, and 79 of them sat together in the same section.
“More distance is better,” University of Maryland virologist Don Milton recently told Business Insider.
After Miller tested positive Friday, Vice President Pence went ahead with a planned trip to Iowa where he met with religious leaders in that state, and President Trump is scheduled to meet with senior military leaders and the National Security Council on Saturday afternoon.