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Pence's Chief of Staff and 2 Other Staffers Test Positive for COVID-19

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Pence's Chief of Staff and 2 Other Staffers Test Positive for COVID-19

2020-10-26 21:44:42

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Mark Meadows  (Image source: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)

After the coronavirus went around the White House and Donald Trump's circle a few weeks back, now it's Mike Pence's office, though he has so far tested negative, and so has his wife, Karen Pence.

The vice president's chief of staff, Marc Short, is one of the five known to have tested positive. He also happens to be a  coronavirus denier. Officials said he tested positive on Saturday afternoon,  experienced symptoms, and has begun isolation.

A top outside political adviser for Pence, Marty Obst, has traveled with him in recent days. He tested positive earlier in the week, according to two officials.

Additionally, a personal aide to Pence, known as a "body man" and accompanies him throughout his day, has also tested positive, according to two officials. He regularly travels on Air Force Two with Pence and is with him much of his day. He tested positive while in quarantine, which began last Tuesday because of contact with Obst.

Additionally, two other known individuals from the vice president's office have tested positive.

Despite the five known people to test positive, Pence tested negative on Sunday. He is also continuing his campaign travel schedule, according to a spokesman, Devin O'Malley.

"Today, Marc Short, chief of staff to the vice president, tested positive for COVID-19, began quarantine and assisting in the contact tracing process," said the spokesman in a statement. "Vice President Pence and Mrs. Pence both tested negative for COVID-19 today and remain in good health."

He added that while Pence "is considered a close contact with Mr. Short, in consultation with the White House Medical Unit, the vice president will maintain his schedule in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel."

Short has traveled extensively with the vice president, has been in close contact with him, and has regularly been seen not wearing a mask. Short was at work Friday and told others there would be aggressive travel until the election, though he will now probably be isolating throughout.

Two administration officials said on Saturday that Short had been experiencing symptoms.

Obst helps Pence manage his political affairs from a position outside of government. He recently traveled with the vice president on Air Force Two and was also in close contact recently with Short. Obst tested positive earlier in the week, but the White House didn't announce it at the time.

Short has had an integral role in the White House coronavirus task force that Pence chairs. Yet, Short has also been skeptical about the real threat of COVID-19. He is against shutdowns and other restrictions that health officials believe are necessary.

There is currently a huge spread of the virus across the country, with the highest number of new cases reported on Friday and Saturday. Pence wrote in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal last summer that there would not be a "second wave" of COVID-19.

Olivia Troye, one of his top staffers, who was also on the coronavirus task force, quit the administration. She said last month she would support former Vice President Joe Biden in the election because of the Trump administration's handling of COVID-19.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was interviewed by CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday, and when asked how many positive cases there were right now in Pence's office, said, "We don't give out that kind of information."

He also made the claim that Pence serves as an essential worker, so is permitted to continue campaigning instead of quarantining. He was questioned on the implication that campaigning is "essential work." He said, "Well, actually, he's not just campaigning. He's working," noting the administration's Middle East peace agreement.

Meadows also made statements that harken back to the belief the administration is operating on a "herd immunity" defense for the virus. "We're not going to control the pandemic," he said. "We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics, and other mitigations."

Tapper pushed the chief of staff on the vice president's campaigning. He replied, "I'm not saying he's not campaigning. I'm saying that is only part of what he's doing."

"As we look at that, essential personnel, whether it's the vice president of the United States or anyone else, has to continue on,"  he continued.

Nothing in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines shows that essential personnel can work while wearing a mask. Meadows said, "I can tell you what he's doing is wearing a mask, socially distancing, and when he goes up to speak, he will take the mask off, put it back on,"

Pence held a rally in Tallahassee, Florida, on Saturday and was not observed wearing a mask while speaking. 

Tapper questioned Meadows as well on a New York Times report that said he wanted to keep the news of the COVID-19 outbreak quiet. Meadows said it "obviously" wasn't "a report."

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