Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff tested positive for the coronavirus, but Pence still plans to keep his travel schedule in the closing days of the presidential race, his office announced late Saturday night.
“Today, Marc Short, Chief of Staff to the Vice President, tested positive for COVID-19, began quarantine and assisting in the contact tracing process,” the vice president’s press secretary Devin O’Malley said in a statement.
Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence both tested negative for COVID-19 on Saturday, according to Pence’s office. At least two other Pence staffers have recently tested positive, the New York Times and ABC News reported Saturday night.
“While Vice President Pence is considered a close contact with Mr. Short, in consultation with the White House Medical Unity, the Vice President will maintain his schedule in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel,” the statement said.
The CDC defines a “close contact” as someone who was within six feet of a person person infected with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes within two days of either the start of someone’s symptoms beginning or a positive COVID-19 test. The CDC generally advises anyone who has been in close contact with a person who tests positive to quarantine for 14 days after their last contact with that person.
Pence’s office is working around that step by declaring Pence “essential,” though his planned travel this week, including to South Carolina on Tuesday, is for the presidential campaign, not for official business. The Saturday night statement did not specify when Pence and Short were last in close contact, and Pence’s office did not immediately respond to questions when asked by BuzzFeed News.
The Trump campaign, with ten days to go before the election, is consistently downplaying the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic, as the country sees a booming growth in cases and hospitalizations. President Donald Trump, who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, has been holding large rallies across the country in recent days, including in states like Wisconsin where virus rates are surging.
Earlier Saturday, at a rally in Ohio, Trump complained about media coverage of the pandemic, which he has generally insisted is fading, despite reality.
“The news, the CNN, all they talk about, COVID! COVID, COVID, COVID,” Trump told the thousands of supporters.