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Coronavirus US: Mike Pence aide joked about testing positive

Katie Miller, the aide to Vice President Mike Pence who tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday, coughed during a nursing home visit the day before and joked to reporters she didn’t have it.

Miller, who serves as a spokesperson for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, was last seen with Pence on Thursday, when the vice president delivered personal protective equipment to a nursing home in Northern Virginia.

Miller spoke to reporters while Pence carried boxes to the Woodbine Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center. She did not wear a mask while the journalists did.

During the conversation, Miller ‘coughed, then quipped that she didn’t have the coronavirus,’ according to Las Vegas Review Journal’s Debra Saunders, who was at the event.   

Katie Miller speaks with reporters as Vice President Mike Pence delivered supplies to a nursing home in Northern Virginia on Thursday; she coughed but joked she didn’t have coronavirus; Miller tested positive the next day

Katie Miller with Vice President Mike Pence, Karen Pence and the vice president's staff after Pence visited Iraq in November 2019

Katie Miller with Vice President Mike Pence, Karen Pence and the vice president’s staff after Pence visited Iraq in November 2019

Miller tested positive for the disease on Friday, a day after a valet to President Donald Trump was reported to have it. She is married to Stephen Miller, an adviser to President Trump who works in the West Wing near the Oval Office.

Her diagnosis and close proximity to the nation’s leaders have raised questions about the White House protocols in mitigating the coronavirus. Miller also had frequent contact with members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Several administration and task force officials, including top immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn and the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, are quarantining after potential exposure to the disease.  But Dr. Deborah Birx was spotted at the White House on Monday.

Pence also is at the White House on Monday.

The vice president ‘has tested negative every single day and plans to be at the White House tomorrow,’ spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement Sunday. 

Pence ‘will continue to follow the advice of the White House Medical Unit and is not in quarantine,’ according to O’Malley.

Trump himself plans to hold a press conference Monday along with as-yet unnamed ‘administration officials’ – after key coronavirus task force members were working from home amid their own exposure. Pence’s schedule does not include the briefing. 

Katie Miller, seen in the briefing room in March with FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, Dr. Deborah Birx, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams, had frequent contact with the Coronavirus Task Force  members

Katie Miller, seen in the briefing room in March with FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, Dr. Deborah Birx, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams, had frequent contact with the Coronavirus Task Force  members

Top White House Economic Advisor Kevin Hassett admitted Sunday that he's scared to go to work. 'It is scary to go to work,' he said. 'I think that I'd be a lot safer if I was sitting at home than I would be going to the West Wing'

Top White House Economic Advisor Kevin Hassett admitted Sunday that he’s scared to go to work. ‘It is scary to go to work,’ he said. ‘I think that I’d be a lot safer if I was sitting at home than I would be going to the West Wing’

The Secret Service agents charged with safeguarding the president will finally begin wearing protective masks – even as the president himself continues to shy from the practice. 

The agents are among many people who work in the White House complex who are preparing to undertake new precautions after two people who work there tested positive for the virus – as a senior official admitted it was ‘scary’ to go and work at the building.

White House aides – almost all of whom have declined to wear masks even as the White House and the Centers for Disease Control encouraged Americans to start using them – may now undertake new social distancing measures while at work, ABC News reported. 

And one of the president’s  top economic advisers admitted Sunday that it’s ‘scary’ to think about going back to work, voicing his own concerns about working at the White House in the midst of the pandemic.

‘It is scary to go to work,’ Kevin Hassett told CBS News Sunday morning. ‘I think that I’d be a lot safer if I was sitting at home than I would be going to the West Wing. But, you know, it’s the time when people have to step up and serve their country.’

Trump confirmed Katie Miller was the staffer who tested positive during an event with Republican lawmakers at the White House on Friday afternoon.

‘She’s wonderful young woman,’ Trump said. ‘Katie tested very good for a long period of time and then – all of a sudden – today she tested positive. She hasn’t come into contact with me but spent some time with the vice president.’

Trump, the vice president and most White House staff – which would include Miller’s husband Stephen – are now tested on a daily basis, a change in policy made this week. 

Miller was a constant presence in the White House press room when President Trump, the vice president and members of the coronavirus task force – including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx – briefed the media on the administration’s work combating the disease.

Katie Miller is married to White House senior adviser Stephen Miller; the two are seen at the September 2019 state dinner for the Australian prime minister

Katie Miller is married to White House senior adviser Stephen Miller; the two are seen at the September 2019 state dinner for the Australian prime minister

Katie Miller, then going by her maiden name of Katie Waldman, joined Pence's office in September of 2019

Katie Miller, then going by her maiden name of Katie Waldman, joined Pence’s office in September of 2019

Katie Miller on Thursday listens as CMS Administrator Seema Verma speaks during an event at a Northern Virginia nursing home

Katie Miller on Thursday listens as CMS Administrator Seema Verma speaks during an event at a Northern Virginia nursing home

Trump said he wasn’t worried about the risk of infection despite the virus moving closer to the Oval Office.

‘I’m not worried,’ he said. ‘We’re taking very strong precautions of the White House.’

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows called the White House the ‘safest place that you can come to.’

He said additional safety protocols have been put place over the last 48 hours but declined to detail them.

‘I don’t want to get into all the procedures that we’ve embarked on but I can tell you that this – it’s probably the safest place that you can come to,’ he said. 

Staff are checked daily, give symptom histories and all work spaces get regular, deep cleanings, according to deputy White House press secretary Judd Deere. 

‘The President’s physician and White House Operations continue to work closely to ensure every precaution is taken to keep the President, First Family and the entire White House Complex safe and healthy at all times. In addition to social distancing, daily temperature checks and symptom histories, hand sanitizer, and regular deep cleaning of all work spaces, every staff member in close proximity to the president and vice president is being tested daily for COVID-19 as well as any guests,’ Deere said in a statement to DailyMail.com.

Pence was not at the White House Friday as he spent the day in Iowa, talking to people about the food supply. His flight to Des Moines was delayed nearly an hour that morning. Reporters traveling with the vice president reported several staffers exited the plane before it ultimately took off.  

Miller tested positive on Friday after testing negative on Thursday, according to a senior administration official. Pence was tested Friday morning and was negative.

She was not on the vice president’s flight but had possibly been in contact with six people scheduled to fly. They were removed from the plane.

A senior administration official said the six were tested later Friday and the results were negative. 

The official declined to say Miller’s level of contact with Pence but said Trump had not been in contact with her recently. 

‘I’m not going to get into the level of contact the vice president had. The president has not had contact with this person recently,’ the official said.

Katie Miller with Vice President Mike Pence and his chief of staff Marc Short on Capitol Hill in December

Katie Miller with Vice President Mike Pence and his chief of staff Marc Short on Capitol Hill in December

Miller worked closely with the coronavirus task force and helped prepare for this March briefing

Miller worked closely with the coronavirus task force and helped prepare for this March briefing

Stephen and Katie Miller at their February wedding at the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C. It was attended by President Trump and Vice President Pence

Stephen and Katie Miller at their February wedding at the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C. It was attended by President Trump and Vice President Pence

Vice President Pence's plane was delayed from taking off Friday morning while staffers who may have had contact with the infected person exited the plane

Vice President Pence’s plane was delayed from taking off Friday morning while staffers who may have had contact with the infected person exited the plane

Vice President Pence practiced social distancing when he landed in Iowa and was greeted by Governor Kim Reynolds

Vice President Pence practiced social distancing when he landed in Iowa and was greeted by Governor Kim Reynolds

Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows called the White House one of the 'safest' places

Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows called the White House one of the ‘safest’ places

‘This morning we had someone on the vice president’s staff test positive and so out of abundance of caution we went back and looked into all the person’s contacts most recently,’ a senior administration official said.

‘That’s why we asked some of our staff to deplane. Nobody else was exhibiting any symptoms or having any feeling of sickness. We asked them to go get tested and to go home out of an abundance of caution,’ the official added.

Only 10 members of Pence’s staff are tested daily and not every single person out of the hundreds who work in the Old Executive Office building, across the street from the White House complex.     

Miller is the second person inside the White House complex to test positive this week. In March another Pence staffer tested positive but that person did not have regular contact with the vice president.

After the first positive test this week, the White House shored up some of its protocols to protect the nation’s top leadership from the virus. 

Trump, Pence, and most White House staff are now tested daily.

But few staffers wear face masks and social distancing in the small, crowded West Wing office space is virtually impossible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a face mask if socially distancing is not possible. 

‘We have put in place the guidelines that are experts have put forward to keep this building,’ White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said at Friday’s briefing. ‘As America reopen safely, the White House is continuing to operate safely.’

‘I can just tell you taken every single precaution to protect the president,’ she added, noting that they ‘clean the facility. We social distance, we kept people six feet away from one another. We’ve done every single thing that Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci have asked us to do. I can assure the American people that their commander in chief is protected.’

A few staff members were seen wearing masks Friday when President Trump and first lady Melania Trump went to the World War II Memorial but most were not wearing face covering.

Neither Trump nor the first lady wore one and McEnany did not wear one during her briefing. All the members of the White House press corp at the briefing wore masks.

‘This president is readily tested. He will make the decision as to whether he will wear a mask or not,’ McEnany said. ‘I can tell you, those veterans are protected. They made the choice to come here, because they have chosen to put their nation first and wanted to be with their commander in chief on this momentous day. It was their choice to come here, and I can tell you that the president always puts the safety of our veterans first and the American people first.’ 

And Trump was asked during an interview on ‘Fox & Friends’ Friday morning whether those who serve him food would now cover their faces.

‘They’ve already started,’ he said. He noted later Friday that the official White House photographer at his event with Republican lawmakers was wearing a mask.

‘The testing protocol is a strong regime and as it gets close to the president, they will wear a mask in those closer proximities,’ Meadows said. 

Neither President Trump nor first lady Melania Trump wore masks Friday morning when they  met with veterans at the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C.

Neither President Trump nor first lady Melania Trump wore masks Friday morning when they  met with veterans at the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. 

President Trump and Melania Trump kept their distance when they spoke to the veterans

President Trump and Melania Trump kept their distance when they spoke to the veterans

White House National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien stands next to a staffer wearing a face mask during the visit to the World War II Memorial

White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien stands next to a staffer wearing a face mask during the visit to the World War II Memorial

Members of the White House press corp wore masks during Friday's briefing

Members of the White House press corp wore masks during Friday’s briefing

The positive tests have raised questions about the White House’s policy on trying to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus inside the complex, which includes the West Wing offices where the president works, the Old Executive Office building where many aides are located, the East Wing offices of the first lady, and the Executive Mansion where the first family lives. 

Temperatures are checked at the White House gate before anyone is let inside and any one meeting with the president is given a rapid-result coronavirus test.

But social distancing doesn’t always take place at White House events where the president has been seen seated at his desk in the Oval Office with officials and lawmakers crowded around him. Officials said this is permitted because everyone is tested before meeting with Trump. 

Additionally, the president has said he won’t quarantine after close contact with his valet, who tested positive.   

Early guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines recommended a 14-day self-quarantine if a person came into contact with someone who tested positive for the virus, which has infected more than 1.2 million Americans and caused more than 74,000 deaths.

But Trump said he would not be quarantined because he is ‘essential.’

‘Mike was just saying the word essential. Essential workers and as you know essential workers are immune,’ the president said, referring to a conversation with the vice president, who heads the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Vice President Pence said ‘essential’ workers were exempt from quarantining.

‘But with regard to essential workers the president referred to, we’ve always had an exception,’ Pence noted. 

‘We’ve asked them to continue to go to work by every countermeasures including testing to make sure they’re not contracting the disease. In an effort that they would come into contact with the president will be testing every day, and keeping the essential work moving forward in our national response is the priority going forward,’ Pence noted on Thursday.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said proper protocols were in place to protect the president from infection

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said proper protocols were in place to protect the president from infection

Reporters in the press room wore masks during Kayleigh McEnany's Friday briefing

Reporters in the press room wore masks during Kayleigh McEnany’s Friday briefing

President Trump said he would not self-quarantine after contact with a staffer who tested positive for the coronavirus

President Trump said he would not self-quarantine after contact with a staffer who tested positive for the coronavirus

The White House uses the Abbott Labs test, which provide results in about 15 minutes

The White House uses the Abbott Labs test, which provide results in about 15 minutes

Questions were raised about the safety of the nation’s leadership and the first family after a presidential valet tested positive. 

The valet was part of the White House Military Office, an elite group of officers and enlisted men who are assigned to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. 

The valet is not being identified but his duties included serving the president his meals – Trump likes hamburgers and steak – and accompanying the president on trips. In other words the valet was believed to have regular contact with Trump.

‘There is no one closer to the president physically, outside of his family, than the valets,’ Kate Andersen Brower author of ‘The Residence’ – a book about the White House staff – told DailyMail.com.

Pence came under fire for not wearing a mask last week when he traveled to the Mayo Clinic. 

He originally said he didn’t need to wear one because he is regularly tested for the virus but later said he should have worn one. 

Pence later wore one during a visit to a factory in Ohio but did wear during his Iowa visit.

First Lady Melania Trump has been much more strict with the areas of the White House she oversees, including the residence and the East Wing, and requires staff to wear masks.

‘She has implemented very strong rules in both the residence and the East Wing,’ Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s chief of staff, told DailyMail.com on Thursday.

‘Staff was cut back in the residence, and East Wing staff are teleworking unless vital to come in for meetings or events. Masks are worn and social distancing has been strictly enforced,’ she noted.

Melania Trump has been much more strict with the areas of the White House she oversees, including the residence and the East Wing,  and requires staff to wear masks

Melania Trump has been much more strict with the areas of the White House she oversees, including the residence and the East Wing,  and requires staff to wear masks

Melania Trump, who is tested regularly for the coronavirus, has advocated for people to wear face masks, shooting a video urging people to don one and was pictured wearing one herself.

The president has not been photographed wearing a mask although he said he wore backstage during a visit to the Honeywell factory in Arizona on Tuesday, which switched to making surgical masks to help battle the coronavirus pandemic.  

When it comes to coronavirus testing, the White House uses the Abbott Labs test to detect the coronavirus, which provides results in about 15 minutes. It involves swabbing a person’s nostrils and waiting on the result. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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