At least five members of Vice President Mike Pence's staff have now tested positive for COVID-19, yet Pence is still refusing to isolate himself. According to a report by The New York Times, Pence's chief of staff, Marc Short, tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday. Although the case seems to have spread among staffers, Pence is not taking steps to reduce his contact with anyone.
At least four staffers on Pence's team have tested positive in addition to Short, and safety measures like face masks and social distancing are not regularly observed among them. Even though COVID-19 carriers can be asymptomatic, Pence is reportedly insisting on continuing to work as usual. Pence's spokesperson Devin O'Malley told reporters: "Vice President Pence and Mrs. Pence both tesed negative for COVID-19 today, and remain in good health. 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 C.D.C. guidelines for essential personnel."
The White House medical unit itself has not issued a statement on Pence's diagnosis yet, or the decision to keep him working with others. Additionally, two White House sources said that President Donald Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, tried to keep the news of this outbreak in Pence's staff from going public. He was unsuccessful.
Pence is taking heavy criticism for continuing to campaign and work closely with other people, despite the possibility that he is carrying COVID-19. As the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, many are calling on him to lead by example and act out of an abundance of caution — especially considering the deadly direction the pandemic is currently moving in.
In the past week, the U.S. has seen record high numbers of new coronavirus cases diagnosed in a single day, and deaths are on the rise as well. In direct contradiction of these facts, the president continues to tell crowds that the country is "rounding the turn" on the pandemic.
Some political analysts believe this rhetoric will hurt Trump in the 2020 presidential election, as the virus's impact on voters' communities becomes impossible to ignore. Last week, a report by NBC News speculated that the Republican-leaning state of Wisconsin might go blue this year considering how hard COVID-19 has hit it. So far, Short has not responded to requests for comment.