By: New York Occasions | Washington |

October 26, 2020 8:18:46 am

Infection of Pence aides raises new questions about Trump’s virus responseWhite Home Chief of Employees Mark Meadows throughout a tv interview outdoors the White Home on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (Stefani Reynolds/The New York Occasions)

“COVID, COVID. COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID,” President Donald Trump groused at a rally in North Carolina on Saturday, expressing dismay that the lethal coronavirus pandemic had come to dominate the ultimate days of his struggling reelection marketing campaign. He made up a situation: “A aircraft goes down, 500 individuals lifeless, they don’t speak about it. ‘COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID.’”

However simply seven hours later, the White Home made its personal COVID headlines when officers acknowledged that one other coronavirus outbreak had struck the White Home, infecting Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of employees and 4 different high aides — and elevating new questions in regards to the Trump administration’s cavalier method to the worst well being disaster in a century.

“We’re not going to regulate the pandemic,” Mark Meadows, the White Home chief of employees, mentioned on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday morning, basically providing a verbal shrug in response to any effort to forestall an outbreak within the high echelon of the nation’s leaders. “We’re going to management the truth that we get vaccines, therapeutics and different mitigations, as a result of it’s a contagious virus — similar to the flu.”

Trump made no reference to the brand new instances throughout marketing campaign rallies in New Hampshire and Maine on Sunday. However for voters, the brand new wave of infections on the White Home simply over per week earlier than Election Day was a visceral reminder of the president’s dismissive and erratic dealing with of the virus, even in some of the safe areas within the nation. And it comes simply as america suffers its third surge in infections throughout the nation, with a file variety of every day new instances Friday and a demise toll that has risen to virtually 225,000.

Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, mentioned Sunday that the assertion by Meadows was “an acknowledgment of what President Trump’s technique has clearly been from the start of this disaster: to wave the white flag of defeat and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would merely go away. It hasn’t, and it gained’t.”

“It’s sadly no shock then that this virus continues to rage unchecked throughout the nation and even within the White Home itself,” mentioned the previous vp, who has sought to make the administration’s dealing with of the coronavirus the centerpiece of his marketing campaign.

From the start, Trump has downplayed the specter of the virus, initially insisting that it might simply “go away” and failing to ramp up testing which may have helped gradual its unfold. Trump clashed along with his personal scientists, pressuring officers on the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention to alter their restrictive suggestions about how and when to reopen companies and faculties.

The president organized his pandemic response round his political ideology, warring with “blue state” governors whereas praising the hands-off method of Republican leaders. And he publicly sided with individuals pissed off with restrictions and shutdowns, demanding on Twitter that the governor of Michigan, amongst others, “liberate” her state.

Trump turned masks sporting and different preventive measures into political loyalty assessments, dismissing the vital significance of social distancing and pinning his hopes on Operation Warp Pace, a plan to speed up growth and distribution of a vaccine that has proven promise, however that scientists have insisted was by no means going to be fast or simple.

The president and his aides have taken the identical method contained in the White Home. They’ve declined to comply with quarantine tips, ignored warnings from docs, largely refused to put on masks and, within the case of the president, mocked reporters who did as just lately as Friday within the Oval Workplace.

“The White Home has had very unfastened guidelines about defending the employees and management,” mentioned Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown College College of Public Well being. “They’ve had one giant outbreak, and it was very clear that they didn’t study from that outbreak and so these are going to proceed.”

The president and vp have largely stayed in messaging lockstep because the pandemic unfolded. Trump has minimized it from the start, and used his personal an infection and hospitalization as a manner of doubling down, telling People after his therapy with experimental medicine, “Don’t be afraid of COVID,” and urging them to not “let it dominate your life.” He mentioned throughout his second debate with Biden final week that the nation was “studying to stay” with it.

Because the chief of the White Home virus job drive, Pence has parroted the president’s rosy outlook, even mimicking Trump’s aversion to masks by refusing to put on one throughout a go to to a hospital in April.

Over the previous a number of months, Pence stood by because the White Home sidelined Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s high infectious illness specialist, and Dr. Deborah Birx, the duty drive coordinator, and as an alternative embraced Dr. Scott Atlas, a radiologist and senior fellow at Stanford College’s conservative Hoover Establishment, who has advocated a largely hands-off method by the federal authorities to stopping the pandemic.

Pence examined damaging for the virus Sunday, and mentioned he wouldn’t quarantine after his publicity to contaminated aides, who embody Marc Brief, his chief of employees, and Marty Obst, a senior adviser. His spokesperson wouldn’t say whether or not Pence was receiving a number of the medicine Trump was given, together with an experimental cocktail of antibodies by pharmaceutical firm Regeneron, as a safety measure.

In a press release, the White Home deemed the vp “important” and mentioned he would follow his marketing campaign schedule. That included an handle Sunday night to supporters in Kinston, North Carolina, the place Pence made no reference to the instances that had infiltrated his employees and as an alternative defended the administration’s coronavirus response because the “best nationwide mobilization since World Conflict II.”

However a number of White Home aides and officers on his marketing campaign mentioned privately that Pence ought to keep off the marketing campaign path, and as an alternative host digital occasions and telephone calls to display that the vp and his aides had been taking the outbreak of their ranks severely.

Others mentioned that the newest outbreak could be within the information both manner, and that deploying Pence to a state like North Carolina, the place marketing campaign aides assume the race will come right down to fewer than 100,000 votes, was essential within the remaining days.

However the determination to proceed Pence’s schedule risked making the outbreak in his ranks an even bigger story than if he pulled again from the marketing campaign path.

Robert C. O’Brien, the president’s nationwide safety adviser, defended Pence’s determination to take care of his marketing campaign schedule, whilst he acknowledged that the virus was “ripping via this nation.” He cited the CDC’s tips that permit important personnel to proceed working.

“Important employees going out and campaigning and voting are about as important as issues we are able to do as People,” O’Brien mentioned.

These tips, issued in April and up to date in September, had been developed to make sure that “people who find themselves serving to us hold the lights on and the water operating can do their jobs,” mentioned one federal well being official who participated in drafting them. And whereas Pence has to this point examined damaging, well being consultants denounced his determination to proceed touring to marketing campaign stops across the nation.

“The thought which you could simply be declared a necessary employee with out being quarantined undermines the entire idea of quarantine,” mentioned Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the CDC underneath President Barack Obama.

On the marketing campaign path, blaming the information media for masking the virus incessantly has turn into a inventory a part of Trump’s rally efficiency — an indication he’s interesting to voters by leaning into the nation’s normal virus fatigue. The president has repeatedly mentioned the nation is “rounding the nook” within the battle in opposition to the virus — whilst all proof is on the contrary.

The president’s evaluation stood in stark distinction to extra aggressive steering from Fauci, who mentioned in an interview Sunday that the nation ought to take into account mandating using masks — one thing Trump has repeatedly refused to contemplate — as a result of “the common sporting of masks” is important to curbing the unfold of the lethal virus.

“It could be optimum if this could possibly be achieved with out resorting to a masks mandate,” Fauci mentioned, repeating feedback he first made late final week. “Nevertheless, if the state of affairs continues to deteriorate relating to numbers of instances, hospitalizations and sure deaths whereas many individuals nonetheless refuse to put on masks, we should always severely take into account masks mandates.”

The outbreak within the vp’s workplace is the third to strike the White Home, following a small outbreak in Could that included Pence’s spokesperson and a bigger explosion of an infection in late September after a Rose Backyard ceremony for Decide Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s Supreme Courtroom nominee.

The newest one started late final week, when Obst fell unwell. As soon as that occurred, individuals who had been involved with him went into quarantine and phone tracing measures had been employed, in response to a senior administration official. However throughout that interval, two different high aides to Pence examined constructive for the virus. Officers within the vp’s workplace didn’t make it public on the time.

Then Saturday, each Brief and Zach Bauer, Pence’s private aide, examined constructive, two senior administration officers mentioned. Two officers accustomed to the occasions mentioned Brief wished White Home docs to problem a press release about his analysis, including that Pence had examined damaging.

However Meadows didn’t need the data changing into public Saturday, the officers mentioned. He pressed the White Home medical workplace to not launch a press release, and urged the vp’s employees to not publicly reveal the diagnoses, the officers mentioned. A number of individuals mentioned they believed Meadows was attempting to maintain the state of affairs from changing into public so near Election Day. Meadows has indicated to those that he was doing what the president wished.

A senior administration official mentioned that Meadows was not attempting to forestall the outbreak from changing into public, however as an alternative that he thought the White Home medical workplace shouldn’t problem the assertion and wished the vp’s workplace to interact involved tracing earlier than placing out a press release. After the Rose Backyard ceremony final month, the White Home made little effort to trace the unfold of the virus.

Throughout the White Home advanced, there was a mix of tension about what the outbreak means for the election, and intense frustration with Brief, who has been among the many leaders within the administration in arguing the dangers of the virus have been overblown.

Brief has additionally performed down the worth of masks sporting, administration officers mentioned. Brief was anticipated to remain house for a minimum of 10 days.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., mentioned he gave the vp’s workplace credit score for acknowledging that Brief was sick, and took no problem with Pence being out on the path.

“I don’t assume they need to overdramatize this,” Cole mentioned. “It’s close to the tip of a marketing campaign. I’m certain all this stuff are weighed fastidiously by a presidential marketing campaign. I suppose you might name it both manner, but when I had been in the same state of affairs I’d be doing the same factor to what Vice President Pence is doing.”

Requested by reporters Sunday whether or not Pence ought to come off the marketing campaign path, Trump mentioned that “you’ll need to ask him” and bragged in regards to the measurement of the vp’s rally crowds, saying that they had been socially distanced.

The one particular person within the president’s orbit whose personal expertise with the virus appeared to have altered his pondering is Chris Christie, the previous New Jersey governor, who was hospitalized after testing constructive and now urges People to put on masks and apply social distancing.

“These minor inconveniences can save your life, your neighbors and the economic system,” he wrote final week in an op-ed in The Wall Avenue Journal. “Seldom has so little been requested for a lot profit. But the message shall be broadly heeded solely whether it is persistently and actually delivered by the media, non secular leaders, sports activities figures and public servants.

“These in positions of authority,” he mentioned — with out straight mentioning Trump and Pence — “have an obligation to get the message out.”

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