The vice president’s office announced Saturday evening that chief of staff Marc Short was diagnosed with Covid-19. Sources told CNN that Marty Obst, a senior adviser to Pence who is not a government employee, and another aide in Pence’s office also tested positive for the virus.

The vice president’s office has not provided comment to CNN on Obst or the staffer in Pence’s office who tested positive for Covid-19 in recent days.

The developments raise new questions about safety protocols and transparency within the White House as the pandemic has killed more than 224,000 Americans.

The news comes just over a week before Election Day amid a blitz of campaign stops for Pence, who leads the White House coronavirus task force, including the vice president’s trips to Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire in the last week.

Pence, who is known to rarely wear a mask while flying on Air Force Two, traveled on Saturday to Florida for campaign rallies in Lakeland and Tallahassee. The vice president walked across the tarmac from Marine Two in a mask and boarded Air Force Two about an hour behind schedule.

Pence emerged maskless from Air Force Two in Florida, running down the steps and jogging across the tarmac, fist pumping as he approached the podium. The vice president’s office released the statement on Short moments after Pence landed back at Andrews Air Force Base.

“Today, Marc Short, Chief of Staff to the Vice President, tested positive for COVID-19, began quarantine and assisting in the contact tracing process,” Pence’s press secretary Devin O’Malley said in a statement Saturday. “Vice President Pence and Mrs. Pence both tested negative for COVID-19 today, and remain in good health.”

The statement continued, “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 CDC guidelines for essential personnel.”

As President Donald Trump returned to Washington shortly after midnight from campaign appearances in Ohio, he said he had heard about Short’s diagnosis.

“He’s going to be fine. But he’s quarantining,” Trump said.

On Saturday, a source familiar with the matter told CNN that Obst tested positive for coronavirus earlier this week. Despite Obst recently traveling with Pence, the White House did not disclose or confirm the information about his positive test several days ago, another source familiar with the situation told CNN.

Short has been seen on the campaign trail actively eschewing the use of masks for months, including earlier this week traveling aboard Air Force Two. Neither Pence nor Short wore a mask on Pence’s trip on Thursday and Friday.

As chief of staff to Pence, Short has been a key aide involved with the US coronavirus response. He has been reported to have advocated for an economy-first approach to the pandemic.

Short was a driving force against following the advice of the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, on the pandemic, a source familiar with discussions inside the coronavirus task force told CNN. Short would routinely push back on Fauci during task force meetings, believing the doctor’s concerns about Covid-19 were overblown, the source said. That attitude was prevalent throughout much of the Pence team, according to the source. CNN has reached out to Pence’s office for comment.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidance that says people should stay home for 14 days after having contact with a person who has Covid-19.

Despite Pence being in close contact with Short as recently as Friday, the vice president plans to continue campaigning. Late Saturday, the vice president’s office released his schedule for Sunday, which includes more travel and remarks at a campaign rally in North Carolina.

Short’s diagnosis comes weeks after President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump and several aides and members of White House staff tested positive. Pence, joined by Short, continued an active campaign schedule and did not quarantine, with his physician saying in a statement at the time that he did not need to do so because he was not in close contact with Trump or other individuals who tested positive.

Another Pence aide, communications director Katie Miller, previously tested positive for coronavirus in May.

In the aftermath of the White House outbreak and Trump’s hospitalization, there have not been significant changes to Trump or Pence campaign events, with little social distancing and few masks. Very few attendees wore masks at Pence’s event on Saturday In Lakeland, Florida.

Short’s confirmed case also comes as the nation is facing another surge in cases.

The US recorded its highest one-day number of new Covid-19 infections Friday at more than 83,000 — more than 6,000 higher than the country’s previous record set in July.

This story has been updated with additional reporting on Sunday.

CNN’s Jason Hoffman contributed to this report.

Source link