Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller was identified Friday as the White House staff member mentioned in previous news reports as having tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Washington Examiner.
Pence tested negative for the illness following Miller’s diagnosis and has reportedly not had direct contact with his top spokeswoman in recent days. When speaking to the press about the situation, President Donald Trump confirmed that he had also not been in direct contact with Miller.
“She’s a wonderful young woman, Katie, she tested very good for a long period of time, and then, all of a sudden today, she tested positive,” Trump said, according to the Examiner.
Coronavirus creeping closer to White House?
Six other Pence staffers who did have contact with Miller were taken off Air Force Two Friday morning as it was preparing to leave Joint Base Andrews in Maryland to fly to Des Moines, Iowa, the Examiner noted. Because of their contact with Miller, they were asked to “get tested and to go home out of an abundance of caution,” a White House official said.
None of the six who were removed from the plane felt sick or exhibited any symptoms of the virus, the official added.
Katie Miller is married to Stephen Miller, a close adviser to Trump who spends significant time alongside the president, his daughter Ivanka Trump, and her husband: fellow Trump adviser Jared Kushner.
A valet to the president also tested positive for the virus on Thursday, according to The Washington Post. Trump has said he would be tested daily but has so far been negative for the virus.
It was not known how much contact Trump had with the valet in question or whether he has been observing strict social distancing with his staff and advisers throughout the pandemic.
Is prevention possible?
The infection of staff members close to both Trump and Pence raises the question of whether it is even possible to keep the men totally safe from coronavirus infection. Until this week, neither Trump nor Pence had traveled outside of Washington, D.C. since mid-March because of safety concerns.
In their roles as president and vice president, Trump and Pence necessarily have contact with a large number of people. Safety precautions including temperature checks have been in place since late March, but it is thought that asymptomatic coronavirus carriers remain capable of transmitting the disease.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson tested positive for the disease in late March, according to the BBC, so Trump would not be the first head of state to contract the disease, were he to eventually fall ill. Johnson is reportedly doing much better after having required treatment in an intensive care unit back in April.
According to CNBC, several members of the White House coronavirus task force are now self-quarantining after exposure to another White House aide who tested positive for the virus, a number which includes Dr. Anthony Fauci, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn.