Trump and Pence Will Now Be Tested Daily for the Coronavirus After Worker at White House Got Sick

The president said he was tested both Wednesday and Thursday for the virus and both times was negative

coronavirus briefing
Vice President Mike Pence looks on as President Donald Trump speaks to the media on April 6 at the White House. Photo: Vice President Mike Pence (left) and President Donald Trump during a Coronavirus Task Force briefing in April

President Donald Trump told reporters on Thursday that he and Vice President Mike Pence would now be tested daily for the novel coronavirus, in the wake of someone at the White House contracting the contagious respiratory illness.

Even as multiple news outlets reported the worker was a White House valet who was in close physical proximity to Trump, 73, the president said he "had very little contact with this person."

He said he was tested both Wednesday and Thursday for the virus and both times was negative, according to CBS News' Mark Knoller.

Trump, Pence and other senior aides had been tested weekly, CNN reported — part of a larger set of protocols designed to prevent either leader from contracting the virus, even as it has spread to other government officials around the world.

Trump and others in the White House have come into repeated contact with officials from other countries who later tested positive for the virus.

The president's daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump self-quarantined and worked from home for about a week in mid-March after she interacted with an Australian official at the White House who later was confirmed to have the virus.

CNN reported on Thursday that the person at the White House who got the virus is a male valet in the Navy and one of multiple valets who serves the president.

"The valets are members of an elite military unit dedicated to the White House and often work very close to the President and first family. ... They are responsible for the President's food and beverage not only in the West Wing but also travel with him when he's on the road," the network reported.

The man showed symptoms of the virus on Wednesday morning and Trump "was upset" when test results showed someone working close to him had come down with the virus, according to CNN.

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A spokesman said that a government employee at the White House had contracted the respiratory illness but declined to confirm they were a valet or to comment on the reporting about the person's physical proximity to Trump.

“We were recently notified by the White House Medical Unit that a member of the United States Military, who works on the White House campus, has tested positive for Coronavirus," White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement. "The President and the Vice President have since tested negative for the virus and they remain in great health.”

Trump told reporters earlier in the week before boarding Air Force One that he wasn't worried about being in close proximity with others on the plane.

"The test result comes back in five minutes and we have great testing, or they wouldn't be allowed to travel with me," Trump said then. "It's not my choice. It's a very strong group of people that want to make sure they are tested, including Secret Service."

In April, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended people should be wearing cloth face masks in public, the president immediately said he wouldn't and has so far avoided doing so in public, in contrast to Pence.

Trump declined to wear a mask during a trip to Arizona earlier this week.

Separately, the vice president came under fire for not wearing a mask while visiting a Mayo Clinic late last month. But he later admitted that he should have.

Testing capacity has been a heavily criticized part of the federal government's coronavirus response, especially after early problems with the CDC-designed kits limited the ability to track the virus.

Trump insists those problems have been overcome and that the strategy for increasing testing capacity also lies with individual states.

According to NPR, the total number of daily tests still significantly lags where some experts say the U.S. must be in order to return to normal. In Georgia, for example, social distancing guidelines have been relaxed even as fewer than 10,000 people per day are being tested despite some models saying more than 25,000 daily tests are needed by the middle of May.

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