Coronavirus uncomfortably close to White House

Updated May 10, 2020


Ivanka Trump's personal assistant has tested positive for coronavirus days after US President Donald Trump's personal valet was diagnosed. — The Washington Post/File
Ivanka Trump's personal assistant has tested positive for coronavirus days after US President Donald Trump's personal valet was diagnosed. — The Washington Post/File

WASHINGTON: Ivanka Tru­mp’s personal assistant has tested positive for coronavirus, US officials said on Saturday while confirming the third infection in the White House in less than a week.

Other two were Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller and a US Navy person deputed at the White House as President Donald Trump’s personal valet. Both tested positive earlier this week.

The diagnosis of Katie Miller, who is married to White House immigration adviser and speech writer Stephen Miller, was revealed by Trump in a meeting with Republican lawmakers on Friday, a day after news that Trump’s personal valet had tested positive for the virus.

“Katie, she tested very good for a long period of time and then all of a sudden today she tested positive,” Trump said, noting he himself had not been in contact with her but that she had spent time with the vice president.

US health officials said they were taking all possible precautions to prevent the virus from spreading inside the White House, but the US media noted that President Trump was still not wearing a mask.

Commissioner Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Stephen Hahn has also been forced to self-quarantine after exposure to one of these three staffers who came down with the disease.

Mr Hahn was advised to do so because, like Ms Miller, he is also a member the White House coronavirus task force and often worked with her.One such official told CNN that Ivanka Trump’s aide has also been teleworking and has not been in the presence of the president’s daughter in weeks. Yet, “the coronavirus continues to circle uncomfortably close to the White House,” noted The New York Post while commenting on these reports.

“The danger is inside the house,” added CNN. “This means the deadly virus has likely circulated in the White House living quarters.”

On Friday, Vice President Pence’s visit to Iowa was delayed by nearly an hour. Reporters traveling with the vice president said several staffers, who apparently worked with the infected aide, disembarked from Air Force Two just before takeoff. And were tested for coronavirus.

Now President Trump, Mr Pence, their staffers, and journalists who attend their briefings or travel with them will be tested daily to stop the spread of the virus, members of the White House press corps said.

Such alarms, however, have had little impact on plans to reopen the US economy. On Saturday, 47 of the 50 US states confirmed that they planned to resume some business and social activities from Monday.

The US media noted that both federal and state governments were finding it difficult to balance between their two apparent goals: preventing the spread of the deadly virus and resuming regular activities to avoid an economic collapse.

Pew Research Center, Washington, released a study on Friday, showing that more than two-thirds of Americans — 68 percent — were concerned about their states reopening too quickly.

Fewer than half as many (31 percent) said their greater concern was that states were not lifting restrictions quickly enough. About half – 48 percent – said the current number of restrictions was about right. The remainder were split between those who wanted more restrictions — 27 percent — and those who said there should be fewer — 24 percent.

But people also worry about losing jobs. Since mid-April, protests have been held in dozens of major states, urging administrations to reopen businesses. Many of these protesters also refuse to wear masks as a sign of defiance.

The US Labor Department reported on Friday that the lockdown caused the loss of 20.5 million jobs in April, the largest since the great depression in 1930s.

Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2020