US vice president Mike Pence work a mask on a visit to the General Motors plant in Indiana, after earlier criticism: REUTERS Mike Pence will continue working at the White House despite a close aide testing positive for coronavirus last week.
The US vice-president, who is leading the government’s Covid-19 taskforce, was self-isolating on Sunday but would return to the White House on Monday, officials said.
It came after US president Donald Trump confirmed on Friday that Mr Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, had tested positive for the virus .
An administration official said Mr Pence was voluntarily keeping his distance from other people in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
He has repeatedly tested negative for Covid-19 since his exposure but was following the advice of medical officials.
His action came after three of the nation’s top scientists took their own protective steps following possible exposure to the virus.
“Vice-President Pence will continue to follow the advice of the White House Medical Unit and is not in quarantine,” spokesman Devin O’Malley said Sunday. “Additionally, Vice-President Pence has tested negative every single day and plans to be at the White House tomorrow.”
Mr Pence has been at home since returning to Washington from a work-related day trip to Iowa on Friday and did not appear at Mr Trump’s meeting with military leaders on Saturday at the White House.
During the Iowa trip, food industry chiefs were asked to remove their masks shortly before Mr Pence, who was informed of the aide’s positive test shortly beforehand, arrived for a roundtable discussion about supply chain issues, video footage showed.
An official initially said Mr Pence planned to continue working from home, before Mr Pence’s office clarified that he planned to work from the White House on Monday.
It was not immediately clear how Mr Pence’s steps to self-isolate would impact his professional or public engagements.
Ms Miller tested positive for coronavirus on Friday, making her the second person who works at the White House complex known to test positive for the virus over the last week.
Story continues A military service member who acts as a valet to the president tested positive on Thursday, the first known instance where a person in close proximity to the president at the White House had tested positive.
Top officials who have gone into quarantine because of exposure to a person at the White House who tested positive for the virus are Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Dr Robert Redfield, director of the CDC; and the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Dr Stephen Hahn.
After Ms Miller was identified as having tested positive, Mr Trump said he was “not worried” about the virus spreading in the White House. Nonetheless, officials said they were stepping up safety protocols for the complex.
The three other task force members have indicated varying plans for dealing with their exposure. None have announced testing positive for the virus and, taking into account what has been described as limited exposure to the infected person, are considered at relatively low risk for infection.
Dr Fauci’s institute said he was “taking appropriate precautions” to mitigate the risk to others while still carrying out his duties, teleworking from home but willing to go to the White House if called. Officials said both Mr Redfield and Mr Hahn will be self-quarantining for two weeks.
The three officials were expected to testify by videoconference before a Senate health committee on Tuesday. On Sunday night, the office of the chairman of the committee, Republican senator Lamar Alexander, announced he would be self-quarantining in Tennessee for two weeks after a staff member tested positive for Covid-19.
Mr Alexander too will participate in the hearing by videoconference.
Additional reporting by AP
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