By Lucia Leal
Washington, May 8 (efe-epa).- The coronavirus crept closer to US President Donald Trump’s inner circle on Friday as Vice President Mike Pence’s spokeswoman became the second member of the White House staff in two days to test positive for Covid-19.
The presence of the virus in Katie Miller, wife of Trump adviser Stephen Miller, was detected under a new policy requiring daily testing of everyone who works in the West Wing of the White House, where the presidential offices are located.
The policy was instituted after a US Navy member who serves as one of Trump’s valets tested positive for Covid-19.
While White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany confirmed early Friday that someone on Pence’s staff was infected, it was the president who identified the person in question as Katie 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 during a White House meeting with Republican legislators.
“She hasn’t come into contact with me,” the president said.
Both the president and vice president are now being tested daily and the White House said that the test administered to Pence on Friday found no evidence of contagion.
Given the nature of her position, Katie Miller often attends meetings involving Pence, who heads the White House coronavirus task force.
Stephen Miller writes many of the president’s speeches and spends a lot of time with Trump, as well as with first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, both senior advisers to the nation’s chief executive.
Friday morning, the vice president’s plane, Air Force Two, took off nearly an hour behind schedule for a Pence visit to Iowa as six members of his staff who had recent contact with Katie Miller were taken off the aircraft for testing.
All six of those people were found to be free of Covid-19, according to the White House.
Neither Trump nor Pence have appeared in public wearing a mask, despite the government’s own guidelines recommending it.
The president did not wear a mask in front of the cameras Thursday during a tour of a mask-making plant in Phoenix, though Trump later told reporters that he did use a mask during the “backstage” portion of the visit.
He was not masked during an event Friday at the World War II Memorial with military veterans in their 90s to mark the 75th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.
Asked later whether Trump had considered wearing a mask in the presence of the nonagenarians in view of the elderly’s greater vulnerability to the coronavirus, McEnany appeared to take umbrage at the question.
“This president is regularly tested. This President will make the decision whether to wear a mask or not. I can tell you that those veterans are protected. They made the choice to come here because they have chosen to put the nation first. They wanted to be with the commander-in-chief on this momentous day,” she said.
“It was their choice to come here, and I can tell you that the president always puts the safety of our veterans first and of the American people first,” the press secretary said.
When another reporter suggested the emergence of a third Covid-19 case inside the White House (another Pence aide tested positive in March) might make ordinary people concerned about returning to work, McEnany said the administration was in the process of implementing the guidelines the federal government has issued for businesses.
“So as America reopens safely, the White House is continuing to operate safely,” she said.