White House Suffers Second Coronavirus Outbreak Just Before Election
A second coronavirus outbreak has struck the Trump White House, with Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff and four other top aides testing positive for COVID-19, The New York Times reported Sunday.
- This outbreak “comes just as the United States suffers its third surge in infections across the nation, with a record number of daily new cases on Friday and a death toll that has risen to almost 225,000," The Times noted.
- President Trump has turned public safety measures like wearing masks into political loyalty tests, both inside and outside the White House, with administration officials looking more toward vaccines and treatments than mitigation and containment efforts.
- Inside the White House, aides “have declined to follow quarantine guidelines, ignored warnings from doctors, largely refused to wear masks and, in the case of the president, mocked reporters who did as recently as Friday in the Oval Office.”
As the leader of the White House virus task force, Mr. Pence has parroted the president’s rosy outlook, even mimicking Mr. Trump’s aversion to masks by refusing to wear one during a visit to a hospital in April.
- Pence has quietly stood by as Trump swapped infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and COVID task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx for neuroradiologist Dr. Scott Atlas, who has advocated a mostly hands-off approach to the virus.
Mr. Pence tested negative for the virus on Sunday, and said he would not quarantine after his exposure to infected aides, who include Marc Short, his chief of staff, and Marty Obst, a senior adviser.
- The Times noted that Short “has been among the leaders in the administration in arguing the risks of the virus have been overblown” and has downplayed the effectiveness of wearing masks.
- Despite experiencing its first outbreak, which primarily affected Trump, his family and his staff, the White House changed little about its approach to mitigation within its own walls, The Times reported.
“The White House has had very loose rules about protecting the workers and leadership,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. “They’ve had one large outbreak, and it was very clear that they didn’t learn from that outbreak and so these are going to continue.”
- Pence will continue with his planned campaign schedule despite the exposure, the White House said, arguing that he is "essential".
Robert C. O’Brien, the president’s national security adviser, defended Mr. Pence’s decision to maintain his campaign schedule, even as he acknowledged that the virus was “ripping through this country.” He cited the C.D.C.’s guidelines that allow essential personnel to continue working.
“Essential workers going out and campaigning and voting are about as essential as things we can do as Americans,” Mr. O’Brien said.