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Pence putting 'a little distance' after staffer tests positive for COVID-19

The vice president distanced himself from others this weekend "out of caution," a senior administration official told NBC News.
Image: Vice President Mike Pence listens during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House on April 27, 2020.
Vice President Mike Pence listens during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House on April 27, 2020.Doug Mills / Pool via Getty Images file

Vice President Mike Pence was putting "a little distance" between himself and others this weekend after a staffer tested positive for COVID-19, a senior administration official told NBC News.

The official said that Pence would take the advice of the White House medical unit and that he continues to test negative for the virus. The vice president chose not to attend a national security meeting Saturday, the official said, adding that there is "no restriction" on his activities.

Pence distanced himself from others "out of caution," the official said.

"At this point, for a day or two, give a little distance," the official said of Pence's actions. "It doesn't mean anything for next week" or beyond.

Devin O'Malley, a spokesperson for Pence, said that Pence "is not in quarantine" and that he plans to be at the White House on Monday.

Pence's decision to stay "a little low key" over the weekend, as the official described it, came after his press secretary, Katie Miller, and one of President Donald Trump's personal valets both tested positive for COVID-19 last week. The White House has ramped up testing from once a week to daily for administration officials, including Trump and Pence, both of whom White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said tested negative Friday.

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Miller, who is married to a top administration official, Stephen Miller, said she tested positive Friday after having tested negative the day before. An administration official told NBC News on Friday night that her husband tested negative. A White House official said Miller was at the White House the morning before she tested positive, adding that she was showing "symptoms."

Miller's diagnosis came just ahead of Pence's trip Friday to Iowa. The vice president continued with those plans and was not seen wearing a mask, although he tried to socially distance from others he interacted with.

Pence's distancing also comes as three members of the White House coronavirus task force are self-quarantining after the potential exposure, administration officials said Saturday. They are Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Stephen Hahn, head of the Food and Drug Administration.

The chief of naval operations, Adm. Mike Gilday, will quarantine for a week after he came in contact with a coronavirus-positive family member, a Defense Department spokesperson said. Gilday tested negative, the spokesperson said.

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On Sunday, White House senior adviser Kevin Hassett said it's "scary" to go to work in the West Wing.

"It is scary to go to work," Hassett, who formerly served as Trump's top economic adviser, said on CBS News "Face the Nation." "I was not part of the White House in March. I think that I'd be a lot safer if I was sitting at home instead of going to the West Wing. But, you know, it's a time when people have to step up and serve their country."

The CDC recommends that people who recently had close contact with someone who came down with COVID-19 should stay at home for 14 days following their last exposure and that they should check their temperature twice daily and stay away from those who are at a high risk of getting ill.

Mosheh Gains contributed.