Pence To Continue Travel After ‘Close Contact’ With Top Aide Who Tested Positive

Topline

Vice President Mike Pence will continue a rigorous campaign schedule after two of his top aides, including one he has been in “close contact” with, tested positive for coronavirus on Saturday, prompting speculation of a second White House outbreak.

Key Facts

In a statement to Forbes, Pence’s press secretary Devin O’Malley said Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short began the quarantine process and is assisting with contact tracing after testing positive for the virus on Saturday.

The statement said Pence tested negative for the virus along with his wife Karen on Saturday, though he is “considered in close contact” with Short, though Short did not accompany Pence on Friday, the VP’s office said, and the last time he was mentioned in a pool report was Thursday.

The news comes after Marty Obst, one of Pence’s closest political advisers, tested positive, according to reports from Bloomberg and CNN, with the New York Times reporting a third aide tested positive.

Nonetheless, Pence will “maintain his schedule in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel,” the statement said, adding that the decision is based on “consultation with the White House Medical Unit.”

Pence has a busy travel schedule ahead with just 10 days left until the election, including stops in North Carolina and Minnesota on Sunday and North and South Carolina on Tuesday, according to the Trump campaign.

Trump campaign rallies have historically been light on safety precautions aside from masks, temperature checks and hand sanitizer, often featuring crowds of thousands with no social distancing and few masks despite mask mandates at all events.

Key Background

Short’s test comes after a cluster of coronavirus infections swept the White House earlier this month, an outbreak that included dozens of White House staffers, Republican politicians and other Trump allies including President Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and Trump’s son Barron. Trump was briefly hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center and treated with antibodies but has since recovered. “Does the WH have *another* outbreak?” tweeted MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes.

Crucial Quote

“Marc Short did not travel with VP to Florida today. In addition, staffers deemed close contacts with the CoS were pulled from the trip before departure as well, either leaving the plane or not arriving to travel,” reported Pence pool reporter Megan Pratz.

Surprising Fact

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows worked to keep the news of Short’s infection a secret, New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman reported based on two anonymous sources.

Chief Critic

“If you needed more evidence of the Trump administration’s failure to contain Covid-19, there’s now a coronavirus outbreak in the VP’s coronavirus task force office,” tweeted former Obama official and Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro.

Tangent

The sign-up website for Pence’s North Carolina rally on Sunday features the usual waiver for attendees: “By registering for this event, you understand and expressly acknowledge that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present.”

Big Number

51%. That’s the share of voters in a Morning Consult/Politico poll released earlier this month who gave Pence, who heads up the White House coronavirus task force, a rating of “fair” or “poor” on his handling of the virus. Only 40%, by contrast, gave him a rating of “good” or positive.” 50% of voters in that poll said Democratic candidate would do a better job than Trump at containing the virus, while only 35% said Trump would do better.

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