Coronavirus: Mike Pence Breaks Silence on Infected Staffer, Says He and Wife Karen Will Be Tested

Vice President Mike Pence addressed the reports that a member of his staff tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday, and said that he and his wife will both be tested themselves. He spoke at a White House press briefing alongside President Donald Trump and other experts on the pandemic. Many Twitter users were shocked to see him standing so close to other officials on the stage after this announcement.

Vice President Pence was put in charge of the response to COVID-19, the coronavirus that is now a global pandemic. On Saturday, he gave an update on how the response is going, including remarks on his own staff member who was infected. He told reporters that his staffer is "doing well" in spite of the diagnosis. He also said that he and his wife, Karen Pence, will both be getting tested just in case.

"Many of you may have been made aware that a member of my staff has tested positive for the coronavirus," Pence said. "We learned of that late yesterday. I am pleased to report that he is doing well — he had mild, cold-like symptoms for about a day and a half, and has not been to the White House since Monday."

"Neither the president nor I had direct contact with that staff person," he went on. "We worked immediately with a White House physician and the CDC, we did all contact tracing, and while the White House doctor has indicated that he has no reason to believe that I was exposed, and no need to be tested, given the unique position that I have as vice president and as leader of the coronavirus task force, both I and my wife will be tested for the coronavirus later this afternoon."

Many people who were live-tweeting the press conference were outraged by this pronouncement, arguing that it was counter-intuitive in several directions. For one thing, they noted that the coronavirus can have a long incubation period, so the fact that Pence showed no symptoms does not mean he is not carrying it.

For another thing, they noted that he was sharing the stage, the lectern and the microphone with Trump, Dr. Fauci and other experts with no protective measures there.

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Even if the vice president is confident that he will test negative, many argued that that means testing him on Saturday afternoon is a waste of a precious resource. One of the widespread issues in the U.S. so far has been a lack of access to testing. People online argued that either the vice president needed to be quarantined until he could be tested, or his condition did not warrant a test at all.

The vice president happily announced that over 195,000 Americans have now been tested for the coronavirus, and laid out the steps to make testing more widely available all over the country. For the latest updates on the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the CDC's website.