A fresh coronavirus outbreak in the White House has infected two of Vice President Pence’s top advisers and a third person who is on his staff, officials said late Saturday night, though officials said Pence tested negative and plans to continue his heavy schedule of campaign travel.
Marc Short, the vice president’s chief of staff, who is among the administration’s fiercest skeptics of coronavirus restrictions, tested positive for the novel coronavirus Saturday afternoon, has experienced symptoms and has begun isolation, officials said.
Marty Obst, one of Pence’s top outside political advisers who has traveled with the vice president in recent days, tested positive for the virus earlier this week, according to two officials familiar with his diagnosis.
A personal aide to Pence — known informally as a “body man” who accompanies the Vice President throughout his day — has also contracted the virus, two officials said Sunday.
Pence is regularly in sustained close contact with the aide, who travels with him on Air Force Two and accompanies him for much of his day in the White House complex.
An official familiar said the personal aide tested positive while in quarantine, which he began on Tuesday after having close contact with Obst.
Two other people in Pence’s office have also tested positive for the virus.
Pence tested negative for the coronavirus Sunday, and the vice president is continuing his travel schedule of campaign events, according to Pence spokesman Devin O’Malley. Pence released a schedule late Saturday that indicates he will travel to North Carolina on Sunday.
“Today, Marc Short, Chief of Staff to the Vice President, tested positive for COVID-19, began quarantine and assisting in the contact tracing process,” O’Malley said in a statement. “Vice President Pence and Mrs. Pence both tested negative for COVID-19 today, and remain in good health.”
O’Malley added: “While Vice President Pence is considered a close contact with Mr. Short, in consultation with the White House Medical Unit, the Vice President will maintain his schedule in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel.”
Short has traveled extensively with Pence and has been in close contact with his boss, and he has regularly been seen without a mask. Pence aides did not immediately respond to questions about when Short and Pence were last in contact. Short was at work Friday and told colleagues there would be aggressive travel in the days leading up to the election, though he will now probably be isolating through Election Day.
On Saturday, Short was said to have been experiencing symptoms, according to two administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private matter.
Short declined to comment.
Obst helps manage Pence’s political affairs from outside the government and recently traveled with the vice president aboard Air Force Two. He was also in close contact recently with Short.
Obst tested positive for the virus earlier this week, but the White House did not disclose his infection at the time, according to an official with knowledge of the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private matter.
Obst’s infection was first reported Saturday evening by Bloomberg News. Obst did not respond to a request for comment.
As the vice president’s chief of staff, Short has played a lead role on the White House coronavirus task force, which Pence chairs, and has been one of the more skeptical voices inside the West Wing about the threat of the virus. He has advocated against shutdowns and other restrictive measures that public health officials say are necessary to slow the spread of the virus.
Pence argued this summer in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that there would not be a “second wave” of the virus.
One of the vice president’s top staffers, Olivia Troye, who was on the coronavirus task force, quit the administration and said last month that she would support Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden because of the Trump administration’s handling of the virus.
She alleged that White House officials, including the vice president’s office, have downplayed the threat of the virus and overtly politicized the government’s pandemic response.