White House Downplays COVID Outbreak Among Vice President’s Staff

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Several members of Vice President Mike Pence’s inner circle, including his chief of staff, have tested positive for COVID-19. The revelation that at least four members of the Vice President’s staff have contracted the coronavirus comes only days before an election in which the pandemic has played a key role.

But the White House maintained on Sunday that Pence himself, who has tested negative for COVID, will not cancel any of the events on his agenda. Despite the CDC guidelines that encourage people to isolate if they have been in close contact with anyone who has the virus, a spokesman for Pence said that his campaign work was “essential,” and thus, he would not be canceling any events.

That spokesman, Devin O’Malley, relayed the information to the press only after White House chief of staff Mark Meadows allegedly tried to contain the news story, according to The New York Times. The paper cited two people briefed on the matter, who anonymously told The Times that Meadows did not want news of yet another White House outbreak to go public.

“We’re not going to control the pandemic”

On Sunday, Meadows appeared on CNN to comment on the story. He said that the reason he wanted to keep news of the outbreak quiet was because it is a matter of medical privacy.

“Sharing personal information is not something that we should do,” Meadows told host Jake Tapper. “Not something that we do actually do — unless it’s the Vice President or the President or someone that’s very close to them where there’s people in harm’s way.”

Additionally, Meadows repeated that the Vice President’s work was “essential,” and that he would not scale back the many public appearances he has in the coming days. But it is notable that, despite his close contact with the virus, Pence has not worn a facial mask at recent events, including an in-person rally in Tallahassee. CDC guidelines encourage any essential worker who has been in contact with a virus carrier to cover their faces when in public, to prevent the spread of coronavirus droplets.

Still, asked about the choice to flout masks, Meadows seemed to admit what critics have accused of the Trump Administration for months: It is not even attempting to contain the virus.

“We’re not going to control the pandemic,” Meadows ceded on CNN. “We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations.”

Live or Die

Just this month, the first major White House outbreak affected multiple members of the President’s own circle, including Trump himself. But after a brief stay in the hospital, Trump continued to downplay the severity of the virus that has now killed over 220,000 Americans. At this week’s presidential debate, Trump even pointed to himself as proof that Americans can learn to live with the coronavirus.

“I can tell you from personal experience, I was in the hospital,” Trump said in debate. “I had it and I got better.”

In response, democratic challenger Joe Biden insisted that Americans would not learn to live with the pandemic, because they are “learning to die with it.”


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