Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, who stuck to President Trump’s efforts to downplay the coronavirus all summer, infected himself with the virus, a senior administration official said Friday night.
Mr Meadows tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, the official said, and he told a small group of advisors. A Trump campaign advisor, Nick Trainer, has also learned he has the virus, said a person who was briefed on his diagnosis.
And four other White House officials tested positive for the virus, a person familiar with the diagnoses told the New York Times. Bloomberg News also reported on the additional cases.
A White House official, who asked for anonymity because the official was not allowed to speak publicly about internal discussions, said people should keep quiet about the various cases. This is how Mr. Meadows reacted when there was an outbreak in Vice President Mike Pence’s office a few weeks ago. At the time, Mr. Meadows was trying to prevent these cases from going public.
His diagnosis came when the pandemic raged across the United States, averaging more than 100,000 new cases a day for the past week and breaking another record on Friday with more than 132,700 cases in a single day.
As of Saturday morning, more than 9,830,800 People in the United States had been infected with the coronavirus and at least 236,500 had died.
This event took place in the rose garden and the White House.
Mr Trump has spent most of the pandemic minimizing the threat posed by the virus, and several White House officials have nurtured his desire to treat it as a localized threat in democratic states.
On Tuesday evening, Mr. Meadows was at Mr. Trump’s election party in the White House, where several hundred people were gathered in the east room for several hours. Many of them did not wear masks as they mingled as they watched the election return.
Earlier that day, the President’s Chief of Staff was in contact with a group of aides at the Trump campaign headquarters in Virginia who were cramped together and wearing no mask President greeted campaign workers.
During the pandemic, Mr Meadows has encouraged Mr Trump’s desire to minimize the threat from the virus and focus on the economy instead. He refused to wear masks in the White House and only wore one very sporadically when traveling with the President or at events in the Oval Office.
Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Meadows often mocked reporters who wore masks and said the face coverings muffled their voices. A video clip from Mr. Meadows refuse to make a statement to reporters at the Capitol for asking him to wear his mask got widespread on social media.
He was also among the officials of the west wing who preferred to see Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, who has issued far worse warnings about the threat from the virus than Mr Trump would have publicly stated.
In the dwindling days of the presidential campaign, Mr Meadows made unwanted headlines when he acknowledged during a television interview that the government could not “control” the pandemic. Critics and Mr Trump’s political rivals used the comment as evidence that the government had given up fighting the virus.
“We’re not going to control the pandemic,” Meadows told Jake Tapper, the host of State of the Union on CNN. “We will control the fact that we are receiving vaccines, therapeutics and other areas of harm reduction.”
Mr. Meadows was one of the few who was fully informed about Mr. Trump’s own fight against Covid-19, which the president announced on October 2nd. He was involved in persuading a reluctant Mr. Trump to volunteer to go to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at a time when the President resisted such a move, but his oxygen levels had dropped and he had a high fever.
But he also had a starring role in an episode that infuriated Mr. Trump the day after the president’s flight to the hospital. After Mr. Trump’s doctor Sean P. Conley failed to honestly answer questions about the President’s symptoms, Mr. Meadows reached out to a small group of reporters in the White House pool and made a more frank assessment that the President was not quite out of office was forest.
He gave it on the assumption that he would not be identified, but a C-SPAN camera captured Mr. Meadows talking to the reporters. Mr. Trump was furious to learn that Mr. Meadows had said something revealing about his health.
A few weeks later, when Mr. Short and four other Mr. Pence’s aides fell ill, The Times reported that Mr. Meadows had tried to keep the information secret.
People close to Mr. Meadows insisted that he only wanted contact tracing before information was released. However, in an interview with Mr. Tapper, who asked about the Times’ coverage, he almost confirmed that he did not believe that the White House should discuss the health of anyone other than the President or the Vice President.
Mr. Meadows did not respond to a request for comment on Friday night. A White House spokesman also declined to comment, citing the need to protect the privacy of staff health issues.