On Friday evening, Katie Miller, the press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence (and spouse of Trump adviser Stephen Miller), tested positive for coronavirus.
The news sent shockwaves through Washington as it became clear that people close to the president and vice president were contracting the disease that has already spread across much of the country. (The day before, one of President Donald Trump’s personal valets had also tested positive for COVID-19).
Yet the vice president, in spite of one of his staff members testing positive, doesn’t plan to change his work schedule in light of how close someone with the disease was to him.
“Vice President Pence has tested negative every single day and plans to be at the White House” on Monday, Pence spokesperson Devin O’Malley said.
The president himself spoke to reporters over the weekend about Miller’s diagnosis.
“She is a wonderful young woman, Katie, she tested very good for a long period of time and then all of a sudden today she tested positive,” Trump said. He added that Pence had since tested negative for coronavirus.
Pence’s habits, continuing to work while not wearing a mask personally, may prove to be dangerous for others.
On the same day that Miller tested positive, Pence was at a business event in Iowa where he took part in two discussions where none involved were wearing a mask. Before one of those discussions, an aide to the vice president came out and actually told the business leaders taking part to remove their masks prior to Pence’s coming on to the stage, The Intercept reported.
Miller was not at the same event, but she had been in close proximity to Pence prior to his traveling to Iowa.
Back in April, Pence took flak for not wearing a face mask during a visit to the Mayo Clinic, where it’s required of all visitors to don a face covering of some kind in order to enter the facility. According to pictures from the event, Pence appeared to be the only person not wearing a mask at the hospital.
A number of White House officials are split on whether the recent diagnoses in the executive branch should require them to self-isolate or not. While Pence and others plan to go about their business as usual, some, including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, are entering self-quarantine. Coronavirus task force member Anthony Fauci also plans to enter a “modified quarantine,” he announced over the weekend, due to coming into “low risk” contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
On Monday afternoon, White House officials told The Washington Post that personnel on the White House grounds will be asked to wear masks or other facial coverings from this point forward. The directive, however, doesn’t apply to office heads, and the president is still unlikely to wear a mask, according to those with information about the new policy.
Trump has in the past suggested that his reason for not wanting to wear a mask might be based in vanity. While discussing whether he’d wear one or not, Trump told reporters he worried over how it might look if he’s seen talking to other world leaders while donning a face covering.
“I just don’t want to wear one myself. It’s a recommendation. I am feeling good,” Trump said in April. “I just don’t want to be doing — I don’t know, somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute Desk, the great Resolute Desk, I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens. I don’t know, somehow, I don’t see it for myself.