Five aides to US Vice President Mike Pence test positive
The coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the White House itself, with the chief of staff to Mike Pence and four others in the vice-president’s inner circle having tested positive.
Despite Pence being exposed to the disease, he planned to continue an aggressive campaign schedule in the final nine days of the race. The vice-president was scheduled to hold a rally on Sunday afternoon in Kinston, North Carolina.
Such unbroken travel plans amounted to a breach of the recommendations of the Trump administration’s own public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They would require the vice-president to be in quarantine for 14 days and always to wear a mask around other people. Pence has frequently been seen maskless in public.
Such blatant disregard for the administration’s own health standards is doubly awkward given that Pence has led the White House coronavirus taskforce since late February. Dr Anthony Fauci, the most senior public health expert on the taskforce, said on Friday meetings had dwindled and Trump had not attended one in months.
The White House said Pence was not required to follow the quarantine rule because he is deemed “essential personnel”. Asked why electioneering was classed “essential”, Meadows said the-vice president continued to do his official work in between campaign stops.
Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease expert at George Mason University in Virginia, called Pence’s decision to travel “grossly negligent”:
US sees new case highs
A day after the US set a daily record for new coronavirus infections, it came very close to doing it again.
Data published by Johns Hopkins University showed that 83,718 new cases were reported nationally on Saturday, nearly matching the 83,757 reported on Friday. Before that, the most cases reported in the US on a single day was 77,362 on 16 July.
Close to 8.6 million Americans have contracted the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and about 225,000 have died. Both statistics are the world’s highest. India has more than 7.8m infections but its daily numbers have been declining.
The new figures came as the Trump administration made the extraordinary admission that it had abandoned all pretence of trying to conquer the crisis
“We are not going to control the pandemic,” Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, said on CNN’s State of the Union. “We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas”: