White House Dismisses Question on Contingency Plan Should Trump or Pence Fall Ill with Coronavirus
Although two White House staffers tested positive for the novel coronavirus last week, the administration on Thursday said it saw no reason to discuss possible plans should President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both fall ill.
Speaking with reporters outside the West Wing, new White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany shut down a question about whether any procedure has been established should the two leaders become incapacitated by the virus in the future.
“That's not even something that we're addressing. We're keeping the president healthy. We're keeping the vice president healthy and you know they're healthy at this moment and they'll continue to be,” she said.
Asked whether preparations should be underway given the recent outbreak at the White House, McEnany reiterated that both Trump and Pence were in good health. “I think that’s something all reporters should be celebrating.”
Nancy Pelosi, a leading Democrat and Trump administration rival, is behind Pence in the presidential line of succession as Speaker of the House.
Although Trump, 73 and Pence, 60, initially refused to get tested for the virus in March, citing their lack of apparent symptoms, both men have since been tested numerous times — and last week, as two White House staff members tested positive for COVID-19, it was announced that they will undergo daily testing.
Prior to the cases in the West Wing, Trump, Pence and senior aides had been tested weekly, CNN reported.
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A senior Trump administration official recently told PEOPLE that the president's physician and White House operations staff are making sure "every precaution is taken to keep the president, first family and the entire White House complex safe and healthy at all times."
The official added that "every staff member in close proximity to the president and vice president is being tested daily for COVID-19, as well as any guests."
Additional precautionary measures, including “social distancing, face coverings, daily temperature checks and symptom histories, hand sanitizer, and regular deep cleaning of all work spaces,” are also being followed, according to the official.
The president and vice president have also been keeping their distance from another, which Trump has lamented.
“I haven’t seen Mike Pence, and I miss him," Trump told reporters on Wednesday, according to The Hill, adding that they “speak a lot on the phone.”
“For a little while we'll stay apart because you don't know what happens with this very crazy and horrible disease,” he added.
As of Thursday, at least 84,109 people in the U.S. had died from the virus as the amount of confirmed cases neared 1.4 million, according to a New York Times database.
However, researchers and administration officials have expressed doubt about the accuracy of testing at the White House.
Fox News reported Wednesday that researchers at New York University believed the rapid coronavirus test in use may be misdiagnosing half the tests it runs.
Additionally, Kevin Hassett, one of Trump's top economic advisers, recently admitted that “even testing doesn’t remove all risks,” on CBS’ Face the Nation. "Even with that, she tested negative one day and positive the next day and she's going to work in a community where people are being tested.”
“It is scary to go to work,” he said at another point during the interview. “I think that I’d be a lot safer if I was sitting at home than I would be going to the West Wing.”
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