Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, has tested positive for coronavirus infection this week, bringing the pandemic into the vice president’s inner circle.
Earlier Saturday, Bloomberg News reported that one of Pence’s closest political advisers, Marty Obst, had also been infected by the virus, adding further to the cases in and around the White House.
Short is Pence’s top aide, a constant presence in his company who frequently acts as a public spokesman for the vice president. Pence, who delivered a campaign speech in Tallahassee, Florida, on Saturday evening, has not reported a positive test.
Short was not seen aboard Pence’s plane, according to the pool reporter traveling with the vice president, Megan Pratz.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Obst or Short had developed symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Obst tested positive on Wednesday, according to people familiar with the matter. Short was diagnosed on Saturday, according to a statement Pence’s office provided to the The New York Times.
Pence’s office said in the statement the Times published that he’s considered a close contact of Short but would not quarantine and would maintain his schedule as “essential personnel” under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Obst is not a government employee, but is frequently in contact with Pence and his staff and often visits the White House grounds. He was last around Pence about a week ago but wasn’t in close proximity to the vice president, two of the people said.
Obst was quiet on Twitter the day of his diagnosis, with just one retweet, but has since been active on the social media platform, posting criticism of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Obst declined to comment. Short and spokespeople for Pence and the White House didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The coronavirus has swept through the White House since September, infecting President Donald Trump, his wife and youngest son, and a number of top aides, including his campaign manager, his press secretary, and the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee. The outbreak has served as a punctuation mark on Trump’s handling of the pandemic, which polls show has been widely panned by voters.
Another Trump ally, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, was hospitalized with COVID-19 after helping the president prepare for his first debate with Biden last month. Since recovering, Christie has issued a public mea culpa, declaring he was wrong not to wear a mask at the White House and urging Americans to follow the guidance of public health authorities.
Trump has seldom worn a mask before or after his illness and discourages it among his aides and people around him. The president wore a mask on Saturday when he voted in Florida.
On Saturday, Pence was photographed wearing a mask as he walked from Marine Two and boarded Air Force Two in Washington. He didn’t wear a mask during events in Lakeland or Tallahassee but was alone on stage, a distance from other people. U.S. Secret Service agents around him wore masks.
Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller contracted COVID-19 in May.
The virus has infected about 8.6 million Americans so far and more than 225,000 have died. The U.S. is in the midst of yet another surge of infections, with new cases exceeding 83,000 on Friday, a record.
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