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As Trump is hospitalized, Vice President Pence not transferred power, remains at his residence

Pence, who was with Trump this week, tested negative for the virus Friday, and a physician said he had not had enough contact to require quarantine.
Image: Vice President Mike Pence waves to supporters after speaking at an event hosted by The Family Leader Foundation
Vice President Mike Pence waves to supporters after speaking at an event hosted by The Family Leader Foundation on Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa.Charlie Neibergall / AP

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence had not been transferred the power of the presidency, a government official said, ahead of President Donald Trump's arrival Friday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Pence was at the Naval Observatory in Washington, the vice presidential residence, on Friday evening, an official said.

Trump tested positive for the virus late Thursday and was experiencing symptoms, including a fever.

Pence's White House physician, Dr. Jesse T. Schonau, said the vice president, who had been in close proximity to Trump earlier in the week, tested negative for Covid-19 on Friday morning. Schonau added that Pence was not considered to have been a "close contact" with anyone who had tested positive and did not need to quarantine, writing that he "remains in good health and is free to go about his normal activities."

Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien appeared to suggest that Pence could conduct in-person appearances soon, saying in a statement Friday afternoon that Pence planned "on resuming his scheduled campaign events."

Trump's diagnosis rattled the country and threw an already chaotic campaign into further turbulence, raising questions as to whether the president will be forced to halt in-person campaigning for the remaining 32 days and whether Pence will be able to participate in the only vice presidential debate of the election cycle, on Wednesday in Salt Lake City.

Health experts have warned that while Pence and other White House officials have tested negative, it can take up to 14 days for a person to become symptomatic or to test positive.

For that reason, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines recommend quarantining for 14 days after coming into contact with someone who has Covid-19, even in the event of a negative test result. If Pence followed those recommendations, he would have to quarantine through Oct. 13.

Pence has said very little publicly outside of a tweet wishing the first couple a "full and swift recovery," and no public events were listed on his schedule for Friday. It is unclear whether Pence will enter quarantine, as the CDC recommends.

Trump's diagnosis put a spotlight on the White House's continued downplaying of the seriousness of the pandemic. Pence, the head of the administration's coronavirus task force, has denied that Trump's reluctance to take the pandemic seriously has hindered the country's recovery.

Multiple people who had been at the White House or around Trump in recent days have since tested positive. Three members of the White House press corps have also tested positive.

The last known public contact between Pence and Trump appeared to be at an outdoor Rose Garden event Monday. But at a campaign event Tuesday in Lititz, Pennsylvania, ahead of the presidential debate, Pence told an indoor crowd of supporters that he had spoken with the president in the Oval Office earlier in the day.

"It's going to be a great night. I can tell you, I left the president earlier today in the Oval Office, and he's ready," Pence said.

Following Pence's meeting with Trump on Tuesday, the vice president continued to travel around the country hosting campaign events.

On Wednesday, Pence traveled to Atlanta, where he attended a fundraiser lunch and delivered remarks at a faith conference. He was seen leaving Air Force Two without a mask, later putting one on as he waved to cameras. Pence was greeted at the airport by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who gave the vice president a fist bump.

On Thursday, the vice president hosted a campaign rally in Carter Lake, Iowa, and spoke at a faith event in Des Moines.

At many of these events, hundreds of supporters gathered indoors without masks or social distancing. Pence was interacting with voters at the conclusion of his speeches in Atlanta and Carter Lake.

Although White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Trump was experiencing "mild" symptoms and will "remain on the job," Pence would be tapped if Trump becomes sicker and is unable to perform the duties of the presidency.

Trump was supposed to lead an afternoon call about Covid-19 support for vulnerable seniors, but Pence stepped in, instead, according to a source familiar with the plans. It is unclear why Trump did not participate, as it was the only item on his schedule for the day.

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The 25th Amendment to the Constitution allows for the president to temporarily hand over control of the country to the vice president if he becomes incapacitated or is unable to fulfill his duties.

Pence was put on standby to temporarily assume the powers of the presidency in case Trump had to undergo a procedure that would have required him to be anesthetized during an unannounced trip to Walter Reed in November, according to reporting from The New York Times' Michael Schmidt. The powers ultimately were not transferred.

President George W. Bush most recently invoked the 25th Amendment in 2007, handing over the presidency temporarily to Vice President Dick Cheney before going under anesthesia for a colonoscopy.

In May, Pence's press secretary, Katie Miller, tested positive for the coronavirus, but the vice president was not infected. Pence was criticized at the time for not quarantining.