All of the Known Coronavirus Cases in Trump’s Orbit
Two White House staffers tested positive last week, increasing worries about a Covid-19 outbreak at the White House
President Donald Trump, antsy over the lack of rallies and other coronavirus movement restrictions, traveled to Arizona last Tuesday as part of his push to reopen the country and argue the coronavirus pandemic is under control. Days later, the pandemic was at his doorstep. The president’s personal valet and the vice president’s press secretary tested positive for the virus on Thursday and Friday, the White House announced. Now three of the nation’s top health officials on the Coronavirus Task Force have begun forms of self-quarantine among growing concerns of a possible outbreak within the White House.
“It is scary to go to work,” Trump economic adviser Kevin Hassett told Face the Nation on Sunday. “I think that I’d be a lot safer if I was sitting at home than I would be going to the West Wing. It’s a small, crowded place. But, you know, it’s the time when people have to step up and serve their country.”
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have been exposed to people who later tested positive for the coronavirus multiple times since the outbreak exploded in March, both at Mar-a-Lago and at the White House. Yet both leaders have eschewed wearing masks in public and following the very social distancing guidelines the government asked the rest of the country to undertake. Meanwhile, Trump and Pence have been getting weekly rapid-answer coronavirus tests, as have any staffers who interacted with them, and members of the press have been subjected to fever checks since March. Neither Trump or Pence have announced plans to self-isolate following the most recent possible exposures, though testing of those staffers who come in contact with the president has been increased from weekly to daily, and all West Wing staff have been instructed to wear masks in the building except when at their desks.
The recent possible exposures add to the growing list of people in Trump and Pence’s orbit who’ve tested positive for Covid-19 over the past few months, showing just how difficult it is to keep those parts of society that were not shut down safe from the highly contagious virus
March: At least two senior Brazilian officials
Two officials close to Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for the coronavirus just days after they attended a dinner with President Trump in his Mar-a-Lago resort in early March. (There were reports Bolsonaro was also diagnosed though he’s denied it.)
Fabio Wajngarten, Bolsonaro’s press secretary, and Nestor Forster, the South American nation’s top diplomat in Washington, were near Trump that evening, though the White House said the interactions were “extremely limited” and “occurred before any symptom onset” — a time we now know is the most infectious period. The administration first said Trump would not receive a test, later changing course. He tested negative for the virus.
March: A staffer for Mike Pence
A member of Pence’s team was the first person employed by the White House to test positive for the coronavirus back in March. The employee, whose identity and role were never made public, was not in close contact with Pence or Trump before the diagnosis, the vice president’s office said at the time. Pence did not immediately receive a test, arguing he had not been exposed to the staffer during the incubation period. But like Trump, he relented and was tested two days later. Both the vice president and his wife, second lady Karen Pence, tested negative for the virus.
May: Ivanka Trump’s personal assistant
A personal assistant for Trump’s daughter and White House senior aide Ivanka Trump tested positive for the coronavirus in mid-May. The unidentified staffer has been working remotely for nearly two months and had not spent time around Ivanka in several weeks, according to CNN, which greatly reduced the first daughter’s risk of exposure. Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner announced they had tested negative on Friday.
May: Trump’s personal valet
A U.S. Naval aide who acts as Trump’s personal valet tested positive for the coronavirus after exhibiting symptoms on Wednesday morning. Valets work closely with the president and the first family, serving them with meals and assisting with other personal needs, both in the residence of the White House and during their travels. It’s possible the person was in contact with Trump and other White House staff before displaying symptoms and being diagnosed, the Washington Post reported.
May: Vice presidential press secretary Katie Miller
Katie Miller, a spokeswoman for Pence and wife of senior White House adviser and immigration foe Stephen Miller, was diagnosed with Covid-19 on Friday. She’s a key member of Pence’s team, constantly traveling and attending meetings with him. Because of the nature of the couple’s work, they both interact regularly with a large swath of White House staffers.
After Miller’s diagnosis, Pence went on to travel to Iowa. Six staffers who had been in contact with Miller were removed from Air Force Two before the flight took off.