WASHINGTON — An aide to Vice President Mike Pence has tested positive for coronavirus, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Friday.
On Thursday, news broke that President Donald Trump’s personal valet has also tested positive. A spokeswoman for Pence did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Pence was scheduled to travel to Des Moines, Iowa, in the morning, but his departure from Andrews Air Force Base was delayed by nearly an hour as staff dealt with news of the diagnosis. Reporters traveling with Pence said several staffers disembarked from Air Force Two just before takeoff.
Those staffers left the plane because they had been in contact with the staffer who tested positive, NBC News reported. In response to the positive test, the White House medical office has embarked on a program of contact tracing for the individual, an official told NBC. Some of these staffers have already been retested.
As of Friday, more than 75,000 Americans have died of Covid-19, and more than 1.2 million have tested positive.
Yet Pence and Trump by and large refuse to wear masks, despite a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that face coverings be used to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Trump has never been inclined to wear a mask. Moments after the CDC issued its initial guidance on masks in April, the president said, “I don’t think that I’m going to be doing it.”
This has not changed, even with news of his valet’s positive test. On Friday Trump attended an event to mark the anniversary of VE Day, and neither he nor first lady Melania Trump wore a mask.
Air Force Two sits on the tarmac at Peterson Air Force Base after Vice President Mike Pence delivered an address at the Air Force Academy graduation on April 18, 2020 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Michael Ciaglo | Getty Images
Pence drew widespread criticism late last month for not wearing a mask during a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Pence later said he should have worn one there, but that he didn’t think it was necessary because he is tested frequently for the coronavirus.
The president said Thursday that he and Pence would begin taking daily coronavirus tests, an increase from the weekly tests that had been White House protocol.
There was no word on whether staffers would also be given daily tests. Currently, the White House tests visitors who will come into close contact with the president before they meet with him, checks temperatures for press, and provides weekly testing for staffers.
On Friday, Trump held a meeting with Republican lawmakers at the White House where neither he nor anyone else wore a mask. During the meeting, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said they had all been tested before the meeting. “Nobody in here has the coronavirus, unless it’s the media,” he added.
Trump’s valet, a member of the military, reportedly had very close contact with the president, including serving meals and helping him with his clothes and other personal needs.
Trump, however, denied having close contact with the sick valet. “I’ve had very little personal contact with this gentleman,” Trump told reporters Thursday in the Oval Office. “I know who he is, good person, but I’ve had very little contact.”
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence stands among television soundmen, radio reporters and other media personnel all wearing protective masks because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic as he listens to Donald Trump speak during an event in honor of National Nurses Day in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 6, 2020.
Tom Brenner | Reuters