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Coronavirus pandemic: Mike Pence's staff tests positive, becomes first case in White House

Neither President Trump nor Pence had close contact with the individual, according to a statement from the White House
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

A member of Vice President Mike Pence's staff has tested positive for the new coronavirus, according to a White House spokesperson.

"This evening we were notified that a member of the office of the vice president tested positive for the coronavirus," Pence’s spokeswoman Katie Miller said in a statement. "Neither President Trump nor Vice President Pence had close contact with the individual."

Officials are conducting contact tracing, as per CDC's guidelines, to track individuals who may have come into contact with the official. This is the first White House staffer known to have the virus, according to Fox News.

Earlier, the Vice President had attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's Policy Conference (AIPAC) in Washington, DC, where two participants later tested positive. The AIPAC team put out a tweet alerting the attendees of possible exposure.

Lawmakers on quarantine

Two other Congress members — Democratic Rep Ben McAdams of Utah and Republican Rep Mario Diaz-Balart — have tested positive for the virus.

Other White House officials have been quarantining themselves after coming in contact with people who have been infected. As a precautionary step, at least 29 members of Congress said they would quarantine themselves.

The White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham,  announced that she will be working from home after coming into contact with members of a Brazilian delegation that visited Trump's club in Florida. Two of the members tested positive later, according to reports.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, center, with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence during a dinner in Florida. Wajngarten tested positive for the new coronavirus just days after the trip (Alan Santos/Brazil's Presidential Press Office via AP)

The outgoing acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, has placed himself on quarantine after his niece fell ill and is suspected to be infected.

A few other lawmakers are getting back to work after self-imposed quarantines. The White House's incoming Chief of Staff and Republican Rep of North Carolina, Mark Meadows, said he was back to working at the White House after quarantining himself.

CDC and ICE staff tested positive

On March 16, an employee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who was not involved in the coronavirus response team, tested positive.

"CDC is considering and taking all necessary actions to further protect the health and safety of our workforce. Our best wishes go to the employee for a rapid and full recovery," the agency said in a statement.

On March 19, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) medical staff at New Jersey tested positive for COVID-19. Neither the immigrant detainees nor the staff had contracted the infection so far, the ICE told CNN.  "Despite the personal risk to themselves, the dedicated professionals of ICE including the medical professionals at (ICE Health Service Corps) continue to carry out their duties to keep the public and our detainees safe during this unprecedented pandemic," the ICE told CNN.

Fearing that the virus could spread easily among the detainees, two experts for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have written to Congress asking them to consider releasing all immigrant detainees who do not pose a risk to public safety.

There is an "imminent risk to the health and safety of immigrant detainees" and the general public if the coronavirus spreads in ICE detention, Dr Scott Allen and Dr Josiah Rich said in a letter sent to lawmakers on March 20.