When Vice President Mike Pence first took charge of the White House’s coronavirus task force, among his earliest moves was establishing a standing call with all 50 governors aimed at closely coordinating the nation’s pandemic fight.
Yet as the U.S. confronts its biggest Covid-19 surge to date, Pence hasn’t attended one of those meetings in over a month.
Pence – who has been touting the Trump administration’s response effort on the campaign trail for weeks – is not expected to be on the line again Friday, when the group holds its first governors call since Oct. 13, said a person with knowledge of the plan. It’s a prolonged absence that represents just the latest sign of the task force’s diminished role in the face of the worsening public health crisis it was originally created to combat.
Once a driving force behind the White House’s coronavirus messaging, the group hasn’t held a collective press briefing in months. Inside the West Wing, task force members’ growing alarm over the virus’ resurgence has gone largely ignored. And among health officials on the front lines, there is mounting consensus that the federal government has little new aid to offer – leaving states to face the pandemic’s third and potentially worst wave increasingly on their own.
“There’s not any acknowledgment or appreciation of the severity of the surge,” said an official in one governor’s office long frustrated with the federal response. “The stark reality that we’re facing is the White House – from top to bottom – has stopped governing and is only campaigning.”
The task force’s shrinking stature comes amid warnings that the nation is headed toward its darkest days since the beginning of the pandemic, as cases hit record highs and hospitals across several states struggle to deal with a fresh crush of Covid-19 patients.
The U.S. on Thursday recorded a record 88,452 cases, bringing its average over the past week to around 76,000 — the highest point so far this year. Hospitalizations are on the rise too, reaching numbers not seen since mid-August.
It’s a more expansive outbreak than during previous waves, when the coronavirus swamped the Northeast in April and tore through the South and West in July. On Thursday, cases were increasing across three dozen states.
Hospitals in states like Idaho, Utah, Texas and Wisconsin, which had been left relatively untouched by the pandemic in its early days, are now at risk of being overrun – with governors preparing to have the National Guard repurpose convention centers as field hospitals. In Montana, the nearly 300-bed Kalispell Regional Medical Center found itself so short-staffed earlier this month that it stopped quarantining employees exposed to Covid-19.
Indiana, meanwhile, has nearly 1,700 people in its hospitals and 470 patients in the ICU, the latter figure up 70 percent in the five weeks since Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb removed most coronavirus-related restrictions.
“This is the most worrisome of the three surges so far,” said Bruce Siegel, the CEO of America’s Essential
By Alexandra Alper and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A political adviser to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is suspected of sparking an outbreak of the coronavirus on his team that sidelined a senior official days before the presidential election, according to a current White House official and a former official familiar with the matter.
Marty Obst, a political strategist for Pence, was determined by contact tracers from the White House Medical Unit to be the likely origin of the outbreak, the two people said.
Obst did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Obst, who does not draw a government salary, accompanied Pence to rallies in Bangor, Maine and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on Monday, Oct. 19, the White House official said.
“If you had to pick a patient zero it was Marty and he brought it in from the outside,” the White House official said, declining to be named since he was not authorized to speak on the matter.
A spokesman for Pence said Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, had tested positive for the coronavirus over the weekend. Pence, who has faced criticism for keeping a busy campaign schedule despite being considered a close contact of Short, has tested negative in the days since.
The outbreak on Pence’s team, which follows closely on the heels of a flurry of cases in President Donald Trump’s inner circle, comes as coronavirus infections and hospitalizations are surging across the country.
That has kept Trump’s handling of the virus in the headlines ahead of the Nov. 3 election. Polls show Trump trailing Democratic rival and former Vice President Joe Biden, who is consistently seen by likely voters as better able to handle the pandemic.
In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, Short defended the decision to keep Pence, the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, traveling in the final days of the campaign despite his possible exposure.
He noted the White House had encouraged other essential workers, such as ‘blue collar’ meat packers, to keep working even if they had close contact with someone later diagnosed with COVID-19, so they had set the same example.
“I think we’re actually following the guidelines that we established,” Short said, noting that he had experienced symptoms akin to a head cold but now felt good.
While Short was not deemed a close contact of Obst and continued with his regular schedule following Obst’s positive tests, three junior staffers who have since tested positive for the virus were already in quarantine due to exposure to Obst, a third person familiar with the matter said.
The person, who declined to be named, added that Pence has introduced new safety protocols, like wearing a mask on Marine 2, the helicopter that carries the vice president. The source said Pence remains masked and in his cabin during flights on Air Force 2, the name given to any plane carrying him.
“We have canceled regional interviews. He goes straight from the plane onto the stage. He
Vice President Mike Pence is committed to spending the final seven days of the 2020 election on the campaign trail, despite the fact that an outbreak of the coronavirus has struck his inner circle, including one of his closest confidants, Chief of Staff Marc Short. Seeing the busy schedule Pence and his team have kept up with, it’s possible the virus may have spread well beyond the confines of his office.
In the last week, Pence has crisscrossed the country to over half a dozen states, holding 12 campaign rallies and two private events. He also cast his early vote in person while back home in Indianapolis, Indiana.
ABC News has confirmed that along with Short, at least four others close to the vice president have tested positive for COVID-19 — and some are known to have accompanied Pence on his trips across the county. Other people in Pence’s inner circle who have tested positive include his top political aide, Marty Obst, and his bodyman, Zach Bauer. At least two others are now isolating after testing positive.
MORE: Here’s everyone who’s tested positive for COVID-19 in connection to the White House
Still, Pence’s press secretary, Devin O’Malley, said in a statement that Pence will not be quarantining after coming into close contact with Short, and will instead continue his jam-packed campaign schedule — a move that has worried experts.
Dr. John Brownstein, a Harvard epidemiologist and ABC News contributor, said that Pence “clearly meets the CDC definition” of COVID-19 exposure and should voluntarily be in quarantine.
“With even just one positive staffer, the VP should have put himself in a 14-day quarantine, especially as it relates to non-essential activities like political rallies,” Brownstein said. “The public should be worried if the vice president continues his intense travel schedule, which is counter to all public health guidelines. Negative tests do not change the need to adhere to quarantine.”
But Pence is carrying on with his schedule, with stops planned in North Carolina, South Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nevada through Thursday.
Here’s a look at all the places Pence has traveled to and the people he’s traveled with over the past week.
Monday, Oct. 19 Pence held two “Make America Great Again” rallies to start the week. One took place in Hermon, Maine, where Pence spoke to a few hundred people in an outdoor setting. Later that afternoon, he spoke at a rally inside an air hangar in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania.
Short, Obst and Bauer, Pence’s bodyman, both accompanied the vice president on the trip, along with spokeswoman Katie Miller, who tested positive for the coronavirus in May and whose husband, Stephen Miller, tested positive on Oct. 6.
“That’s right, the coronavirus is spreading through the Coronavirus Task Force. But don’t worry, the White House is now forming a task force to figure out what went wrong with the task force.” — JIMMY FALLON
“Seriously, it doesn’t instill a lot of confidence that the head of the Coronavirus Task Force’s office got the coronavirus. It’s like if the Avengers got mugged.” — JIMMY FALLON
“As far as we know, the virus cannot be transmitted between humans and poodles so he should be OK.” — JIMMY KIMMEL
“Yep, the only place the coronavirus is rounding the corner is in the halls of the White House.” — JIMMY FALLON
“Meanwhile, when Pence saw he was trending online, he was like, ‘Oh, no — do I have another fly on my head?’” — JIMMY FALLON
“That’s right, Pence will continue to campaign, ’cause not even Covid can stop people from seeing the electricity and raw sexual magnetism that is Mike Pence in person.” — JIMMY FALLON
“We wish them all a speedy recovery, of course we do, both from the virus and from thinking it was ever a good idea to work for Mike Pence.” — JAMES CORDEN
“Despite all of this, Pence himself still has not tested positive because even the virus isn’t interested in Mike Pence.” — JAMES CORDEN
“It’s like the coronavirus won the Super Bowl, except it already made trips to Disneyland and the White House.” — JIMMY FALLON
“In response this weekend, the White House dispatched chief of staff and last boy picked for the white pride kickball game, Mark Meadows. Yesterday, Meadows went on CNN to reassure a worried nation that you’re on your own.” — STEPHEN COLBERT
“The White House’s new plan to stop the virus is to stop trying to stop it.” — JIMMY KIMMEL
“Interesting, so the plan is to just let coronavirus spread freely throughout America? It’s interesting how zen Trump’s people are about this, you know, because with an immigrant child who came over the border, they’re like: ‘Zero tolerance! One is too many! We have to deport!’ But with a virus that’s killing hundreds of thousands of Americans they’re like: ‘Look, man, the virus is just trying to make a better life in our lungs. Who are we to stop it?’” — TREVOR NOAH
A new coronavirus outbreak at the White House involving Vice President Mike Pence’s staff comes as the United States reported a near-record number of new cases on Saturday (October 24).
The United States reported 79,852 new infections on Saturday, closeclose to the previous day’s record of 84,244 new cases. Hospitalizations are also rising and have hit a two-month high and deaths are also trending upwards, according to a Reuters tally.
Late on Saturday a spokesman for Pence said Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, had tested positive for the new coronavirus. Pence and his wife tested negative earlier in the day and the vice president will not alter his schedule as he campaigns ahead of the Nov. 3 election, the spokesman said.
Speaking to reporters in Detroit on Sunday (October 25), Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris said Pence should adhere to CDC guidelines to avoid contracting and possibly spreading the virus.
“I think what we have modeled the right and good behavior, and they should take our lead, you know,” Harris said.
Earlier in the month, two members of Harris’ staff also tested positive for coronavirus.
KAMALA HARRIS: Listen. He should be following the guidelines. We’re doing it. I think we have modeled the right and good behavior, and they should take our lead. They are admitting defeat. And I’ve been saying that, and Joe Biden has been saying that since the beginning. This is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of America.
Here in Michigan alone, over 3,000 new cases just yesterday. This week alone, nationally we are breaking records for the number of people that are contracting a deadly virus. And this administration fails to take personal responsibility or responsibility in terms of leading the nation through this dangerous and deadly mass-casualty event. And that’s why they have forfeited their right to a second term in office.
Donald Trump’s White House chief of staff made an unusually candid admission on Sunday – that the administration does not intend to contain the coronavirus crisis.
Related: Biden gains as suburban women and elderly voters turn backs on Trump
“We’re not going to control the pandemic,” Mark Meadows said, bluntly.
The former hard-right congressman from North Carolina made the revealing remark as confirmed cases of Covid-19 reached new peaks and hospitalisations rose rapidly in 38 states. The contagion also continues to ravage the White House itself, with the chief of staff to Mike Pence and four others in the vice-president’s inner circle having tested positive.
Meadows repeatedly sidestepped questions about the administration’s responsibility for combatting spread of the virus. Instead, in a contentious interview with CNN’s State of the Union, he highlighted what he called “mitigating” factors, including the search for a vaccine and new therapeutics that could bring down the death rate.
Even so, the number of deaths in the US is back up at about 1,000 a day.
Asked why the administration was not going to control the pandemic, Meadows replied: “Because it is a contagious virus.”
Turn on the television, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid. On 4 November you won’t hear about it anymore
Despite Pence being exposed to the disease, he planned to continue an aggressive campaign schedule in the final nine days of the race. Pence spoke at a rally in Kinston, North Carolina, on Sunday, where he did not address the positive cases in his entourage. He will be in Hibbing, Minnesota, on Monday before returning to events in North Carolina on Tuesday.
Such unbroken travel plans amounted to a breach of the recommendations of the Trump administration’s own public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They would require the vice-president to be in quarantine for 14 days and always to wear a mask around other people. Pence has frequently been seen maskless in public.
Such blatant disregard for the administration’s own health standards is doubly awkward given that Pence has led the White House coronavirus taskforce since late February. Dr Anthony Fauci, the most senior public health expert on the taskforce, said on Friday meetings had dwindled and Trump had not attended one in months.
Video: Trump claims coronavirus vaccine will be ready in ‘weeks’ (FOX News)
The White House said Pence was not required to follow the quarantine rule because he is deemed “essential personnel”. Asked why electioneering was classed “essential”, Meadows said the vice president continued to do his official work in between campaign stops.
Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease expert at George Mason University in Virginia, called Pence’s decision to travel “grossly negligent”.
“It’s just an insult to everybody who
Dr. Adalja advises Pence to self-quarantine despite negative coronavirus test after aides test positive
Infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh Adalja told “America’s News Headquarters” on Sunday that he would advise Vice President Mike Pence to cancel any travel and self-quarantine after four staffers and an outside adviser tested positive for the coronavirus.
Pence, who with second lady Karen Pence tested negative Sunday, is still at “significant” risk of exposure. Nine days from Election Day, he plans to maintain his planning campaign travel to Kinston, N.C., Sunday, his office said.
“The vice president is at very high risk for developing coronavirus,” Adalja said. “Him getting daily tests is only going to take the risk down a little bit. There probably is a need for him to self-quarantine for 14 days based on the amount of people around him that are positive.”
5 CLOSE TO PENCE TEST POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS, VP TO MAINTAIN CAMPAIGN SCHEDULE, OFFICE SAYS
Adalja said he’d like to know the nature of the interactions Pence has had with his aides prior to confirmed infection, and if masking was involved.
Adalja said he “can’t say that it’s safe” to continue to campaign.
“He likely was significantly exposed,” he said. “And we know that a test is just one moment in time and that you can’t test yourself out of self-quarantine.”
Adalja suggested Pence follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance surrounding coronavirus exposure by quarantining regardless of test results, holding the vice president to the standard “every American is held to.”
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The New York Times is reporting White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has tried to keep news of the recent outbreak quiet, which Adalja said is a public safety hazard.
“You want to be as transparent as possible,” he said. “And we want people to know who might’ve interacted with the vice president that they could’ve been significantly exposed. … That’s how we move forward in this pandemic is being very open about who’s at risk.”
Health policy specialists questioned White House officials’ claim that federal rules on essential workers allow Vice President Mike Pence to continue to campaign and not quarantine himself after being exposed to the coronavirus.
Campaigning is not an official duty that might fall under the guidelines meant to ensure that police, first responders and key transportation and food workers can still perform jobs that cannot be done remotely, the health experts said.… Read More
Multiple senior aides to the vice president have recently tested positive for COVID-19
While a number of people in Mike Pence‘s inner circle recently tested positive for COVID-19, the vice president reportedly has no plans to cancel his scheduled campaign events with the General Election drawing within a week away.
Pence apparently does not plan to self-quarantine to be sure not to spread coronavirus under the guise of being an essential worker, should he have unknowingly contracted the virus from one of his staff members. He and his wife, Karen Pence, tested negative on Saturday and Sunday, as reported by The New York Times.
According to spokesman Devin O’Malley, Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short tested positive for the disease on Saturday. In addition to Short, four other members of his staff have also contracted the virus that has caused a global pandemic. Marty Obst, one of Pence’s advisors, also tested positive earlier this week, a person familiar with the matter said.
“While Vice President 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 C.D.C. guidelines for essential personnel,” O’Malley stated.
Pence, under his role as second in command to President Donald Trump, is in charge of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
READ MORE: Odell Beckham Jr. doesn’t think he can get COVID-19: ‘It’s mutual respect’
Despite these positive tests affecting people so near to him, Pence is choosing to continue traveling around the nation under his separate capacity as a vice presidential candidate and surrogate for the Trump reelection campaign, less than 10 days out from the Nov. 3 election. This comes weeks after Trump and First Lady Melania Trump contracted coronavirus earlier this month. The disease hospitalized the president for days.
Since the President’s diagnosis, it was reported that several other members of the Administration had contracted COVID-19. This includes former political advisor Kellyanne Conway, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, policy advisor Stephen Miller and campaign manager Bill Stepien.
Questions surrounding the safety protocols at the White House concerning coronavirus have been raised heavily since it penetrated to heavily weeks ago. President Trump has also returned to holding public campaign rallies, and the Washington Post reported that during the first presidential debate against Democratic nominee Joe Biden, guests of Trump opted not to wear masks during the broadcast.
Pence plans to maintain an aggressive campaign schedule this week despite an apparent outbreak of the coronavirus among his senior aides, the White House says. O’Malley said the vice president and his wife “remain in good health.”
READ MORE: Fauci advocates mask mandate amid COVID-19 surge across US
Trump commented on Short early Sunday after his plane landed at Joint Base Andrews, outside Washington.
“I did hear about it just now,” he said. “And I think he’s quarantining. Yeah. I did hear
CNN’s Jake Tapper presses White House chief of staff after top Pence aides test positive for coronavirus
CNN anchor Jake Tapper grilled White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Sunday, hours after it was revealed that top aides to Vice President Mike Pence tested positive for the coronavirus, a development that under CDC guidelines would call for Pence, who has been in close contact with them, to go into quarantine. But Pence is continuing to hit the campaign trail.
In a heated interview on “State of the Union,” Meadows insisted that Pence was “essential personnel” and therefore exempt from the guidelines. Pence hosts a Sunday campaign rally in North Carolina and on Monday is hosting one in Minnesota.
“CDC guidelines say that Vice President Pence should quarantine for 14 days,” Tapper said.
“He’s not just campaigning,” Meadows insisted. “He’s working.”
At least four aides to Pence, including his chief of staff, Marc Short, have reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days. According to the New York Times, which cited anonymous sources, Meadows had sought to keep the White House from disclosing the latest outbreak. The news was released late Saturday night. On CNN, Meadows said he was concerned about the privacy of the infected staffers.
The revelation marks the second round of infections within the White House’s top ranks after many senior officials, including President Trump, who was hospitalized and given treatment for someone with severe symptoms, tested positive earlier this month.
According to the latest tracking data from Johns Hopkins University, about 225,000 Americans have died so far from the virus. But Trump has repeatedly downplayed the danger from the virus ahead of the Nov. 3 election, insisting that the nation has “turned a corner” in the fight.
Friday saw the highest number of new COVID-19 infections in the U.S. since the outbreak began, which Trump, as he has for months, dismissed as an artifact of increased testing. But the percentage of positive tests has been increasing, along with hospitalizations.
Trump has held mass rallies in some of the hardest-hit states, including Wisconsin, where he campaigned Saturday night in Waukesha, and has continued to attack local governments for maintaining lockdown efforts.
Mark Meadows: “We’re not going to control the pandemic, we are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations.”
Jake Tapper: “Why aren’t we going to get control of the pandemic?”
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) October 25, 2020
On CNN, Meadows admitted the White House was no longer trying to “control” the virus.
“We’re not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation,” he said.
“Why aren’t we going to get control of the pandemic?” Tapper pushed back.