A member of US vice-president Mike Pence’s staff has tested positive for the coronavirus, a statement from the White House on Friday confirmed, adding that neither the President nor the vice-president had a close contact with the staffer.
“This evening we were notified that a member of the Office of the Vice President tested positive for the Coronavirus,” Pence’s spokesperson Katie Miller said in a statement, adding, significantly, “Neither President Trump nor Vice President Pence had close contact with the individual.”
More states in the US have issued stay-at-home orders on Friday locking down their residents barring essential services workers and trips to grocery and drug stores as the country witnessed a surge in new infections and fatalities.
President Donald Trump had himself tested last week for possible exposure to the virus after a member of a visiting delegation from Brazil that he had hosted for dinner tested positive for the coronavirus.Trump’s test turned up negative. But Pence, who heads the White House task force on the coronavirus outbreak, has not been tested yet.
President Trump’s handling of the outbreak came under fresh scrutiny as The Washington Post reported he ignored repeated warnings from US intelligence agencies about growing threats to the country as the outbreak spread to countries outside China, the epicenter, and that his own aides were unable to convince him of the severity of the situation until recently.
At least 236 people have died and thousands have been infected so far amidst worries about the health system’s capacity to cope with the outbreak.
Illinois, Florida and Connecticut states joined California and New York Friday with stay-at-home and similar measures restricting movement of residents, non-essential businesses and workers.
“I don’t come to this decision easily,” Illinois governor J B Pritzker, a member of the family that founded Hyatt group of hotels. said at a news conference. “I fully recognize that, in some cases, I am choosing between people’s lives and saving people’s livelihood. But ultimately, you can’t have a livelihood if you don’t have your life.”