On Sunday morning, Vice President Mike Pence tested negative for COVID-19 amid an outbreak in his staff, his spokesperson announced. A representative from Pence's office told The New York Times: "this morning, both Vice President Pence and the Second Lady tested negative for COVID-19." Still, with cases cropping up in Pence's staff, many critics argued that Pence should be taking more precautions.
At least five people in Pence's orbit have now tested positive for the coronavirus, including his chief of staff Marc Short and his outside adviser Marty Obst. The diagnoses have come out over the last week, and an insider told the NYT that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows tried to keep the news from going public, unsuccessfully. So far, Pence has refused to implement more safety precautions or self-isolate just in case he is carrying the virus. This move is a direct contradiction of public health experts' advice, which Pence knows as the White House Coronavirus Task Force's head.
Officials in Pence's office say that he not only intends to continue working closely with others, but to continue campaigning, potentially putting even more people in harm's way. Pence's office does not observe preventative measures like face masks, social distancing or plexiglass barriers, so Pence is risking infection on a daily basis. A source said of Pence's staff: "they're scared."
Before news of the new cases in Pence's office broke, the vice president traveled widely over the last few days, knowing that he or his staff could be carrying the virus with them. He attended two campaign rallies in Florida on Saturday and was photographed wearing a mask as he boarded Air Force Two late. However, he later emerged from the plane without a mask on.
"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," read the official statement from Pence's press secretary Devin O'Malley.
This development could be bad news for Pence and Trump, with the 2020 presidential election approaching fast. According to an analysis by NBC News, the White House may be alienating voters that would otherwise have supported them with their recent dismissive attitude towards the coronavirus. Cases are on the rise in nearly every state in the country, setting records in some cases. With the death toll on the rise, Pence's indifference towards the pandemic is seen as insensitive to some.