Vice President Mike Pence says he will be in the U.S. Senate on Monday to vote for the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court, despite his closest associates who all tested positive for COVID-19 last week.
Pence told NBC News on Sunday during a campaign stop in North Carolina: “I wouldn’t miss this vote for the world,” as he would return to Washington to cast his vote and confirm Barrett as a judge.
But doctors, Democrats and the former FDA commissioner all said that Pence was putting the senior senators in danger by continuing to campaign and physically witness Monday’s vote. Five of Pence’s closest associates, including his chief of staff, have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past few days and have been in quarantine since the middle of the week. Another of Pence’s personal assistants reportedly tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday on the campaign trail.
Pence, who heads the White House Coronavirus Task Force, issued a statement on Saturday, stating that his actions are within the pandemic guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as he is “essential personnel. In several states where Pence ran a campaign last week, new cases and the number of hospitalizations have skyrocketed.
At least two close associates of Vice President Pence, including his chief of staff, tested positive for COVID-19, as the rising number of coronavirus cases remains a focus of the presidential campaign. @KellyO is at the White House with the latest update. pic.twitter.com/lzDYYYox6hq
– TODAY (@TODAYshow) October 25, 2020
“While Vice President Pence is considered to be in close contact with [his infected helpers], the Vice President, in consultation with the White House Medical Unit, will maintain his schedule in accordance with CDC guidelines for key personnel,” said Pence spokesman Devin O’Malley.
The White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, initially declined to say during Sunday morning interviews whether Pence and his Chief of Staff, Marc Short, tested positive. “Sharing personal information is not something we should be doing,” Meadows told CNN after being urged why Trump administration officials continue to flout CDC quarantine policies.
“The vice president is sticking to his campaign plan and inexplicably intends to preside over the Senate chamber tomorrow night,” said Chuck Schumer, minority leader of the Democratic Senate, on Sunday.
“It is simply an insult to all those involved in public health and public health response,” said Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease expert at George Mason University, as the Associated Press reported on Sunday. “I also find it really harmful and disrespectful to the people who are going to the rally” and the staff who will be accompanying it.
“He has to stay at home for 14 days,” Popescu said. “Campaign events are not absolutely necessary.”
Meanwhile, O’Malley told ABC News that Pence tested negative again on Sunday morning and that both the Vice President and his wife Karen tested negative on Saturday. Pence made campaign stops in Florida’s Lakeland and Tallahassee on Saturday after stopping in his home state of Indiana to cast his own vote on Friday.
CDC policy states that “workers in critical infrastructure,” including police officers and emergency service personnel, may remain in the workplace after exposure to the virus – as long as they are asymptomatic.
The Federal Health Department issued a forecast on Friday that the number of COVID deaths in the U.S. could exceed 230,000 by the end of October and possibly 390,000 by February 1.
Asked by CBS News Face the Nation presenter Margaret Brennan Sunday whether Pence “is putting others at risk through his campaign,” ex-FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb agreed that his behavior was inconsistent.
“Well, you see, he could be closely monitored, so the short answer is yes. But the Vice President could be watched closely, and I could understand why they don’t want to quarantine the Vice President. But they have to make it very clear to him what they are doing and what risks they are taking. He should always wear a high quality mask, an N95 mask, he should distance himself as much as possible. They should test it as standard equipment.”
The Republicans said