The US vice president’s spokeswoman became the second White House staffer this week to test positive for COVID-19, officials said Friday, even as President Donald Trump continued to go mask-free at a World War II commemoration with veterans in their 90s.
Staffer Katie Miller had fallen ill boosted fears that the White House is at risk of becoming a viral hot spot just when Trump is leading efforts to wind down nationwide quarantine measures that have devastated the world’s biggest economy.
Miller the US vice president’s spokeswoman, giving her frequent access to high-level meetings. She is also married to top Trump aide Stephen Miller, the speechwriter behind the administration’s hardline immigration measures.
A senior administration official initially said only that a member of Pence’s staff had been tested and found to have COVID-19.
Trump, speaking later at an event with Republican lawmakers, identified the person as Katie, saying she works with Pence as a press person. This confirmed multiple US media reports that Katie Miller was the person in question.
As recently as Thursday, Miller was seen mingling with officials at an outdoor prayer ceremony hosted by Trump and attended by dozens of people, including the wives of Trump and Pence and much senior staff.
Miller’s positive test disrupted a trip by Pence to Des Moines, Iowa, with six people who may have had to contact with her made to get off the airplane.
Out of the abundance of caution, we went back and looked into all the person’s contacts most recently, said the senior administration official, who asked not to be named.
On Thursday, a Trump spokesman said the president’s valet, a member of the military who is in close contact with the president, had tested positive.
Trump and Pence were tested and confirmed to be negative. Both are tested daily.
The latest scare came as Trump is pressing for a quicker reopening of the US economy, which has been hammered by the fallout from mass lockdowns and social distancing.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said there was no risk of a White House outbreak or threat to Trump.
I can just tell you that we’ve taken every single precaution to protect the president, she told a press briefing. We clean the facility, we social distance, we keep people six feet away from each other.