White House becomes COVID hot spot with at least 5 positive tests — so far


Donald Trump, Melania Trump, White House aide Hope Hicks, Republican National Committee chairperson Ronna McDaniel, and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) all tested positive for the virus this week.

Contact tracing at the White House is in full swing after Donald Trump announced in the early hours of Friday morning that he and Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus.

At least three other people who were at the White House in the last week have tested positive for the virus. They include:

  • White House aide Hope Hicks: Hicks tested positive on Thursday after she began to show symptoms of the virus. Hicks had traveled with Trump to the presidential debate in Ohio on Tuesday, and had been in close contact with Trump and his family members who attended the debate.
  • Two unnamed people who work in the White House press room: According to CNN's Brian Stelter, "A journalist received a preliminary positive result. And a [White House] staffer who sits in the 'lower press' area received a confirmed positive result."

Two other people tested positive for the virus after attending an event in the White House Rose Garden last Saturday. The event celebrated Trump's nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) tested positive on Thursday. Lee attended the Rose Garden event on Saturday, where he was seen hugging other attendees without wearing a mask. Before he received his positive test result, Lee had been all over Capitol Hill with lawmakers and reporters. Lee chose not to wear a mask in many of those encounters.

Notre Dame President John Jenkins also tested positive after attending that same event, where he was seen not wearing a mask.

Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee, tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, though that news did not come to light until Friday. McDaniel was in contact with Trump a week before he and his wife tested positive for the virus, the New York Times reported.

It's unclear where the White House outbreak started.

The Washington Post's Robert Costa reported that there were "at least two private gatherings" on Saturday around the Barrett nomination announcement that were held indoors with "very little distancing" and "few masks."

Multiple White House staffers and lawmakers have been in contact with Trump in recent days.

"I fully expect that as this virus continues to go on, other people in the White House will certainly have a positive test result," White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters on Friday.

Meadows, Vice President Mike Pence, and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone traveled to Capitol Hill with Barrett on Tuesday to meet with Republican senators ahead of Barrett's nomination. All three have tested negative for the virus so far, but false negatives are common, and it could take days for a positive test result to come up.

A number of Minnesota Republican lawmakers are also being tested for the virus, as they traveled aboard Air Force One with Trump to campaign events in the state on Wednesday.

Other White House officials traveled with Trump aboard Air Force One on Thursday to a fundraiser in New Jersey, even after learning that Trump had been in contact with Hicks. At 12:54 a.m. Eastern on Friday morning, Trump tweeted he had tested positive for coronavirus.

The risk that the virus could have spread to Capitol Hill hasn't stopped Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from plowing forward with Barrett's nomination.

"Full steam ahead with the fair, thorough, timely process that the nominee, the Court, & the country deserve," McConnell tweeted on Friday morning.

The Washington Post reported that Senate Republican aides are worried that an outbreak could slow down the nomination process, which Republicans want to have ahead of the Nov. 3 election, as the GOP is at serious risk of losing their majority and the ability to push through a justice before voters' decisions are known.

"If some in the Republican caucus get sick, we are screwed," one Senate GOP aide told the newspaper.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.