Politics

Vice President Mike Pence's press secretary tests positive for coronavirus

Key Points
  • Vice President Mike Pence's press secretary, Katie Miller, has tested positive for coronavirus, Miller confirmed to NBC News on Friday.
  • Katie Miller, who said she was asymptomatic, also handled communications for the coronavirus task force.
  • The confirmation came one day after news that President Donald Trump's personal valet had also tested positive.
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Pence staff member tests positive for coronavirus: NBC

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence's press secretary, Katie Miller, has tested positive for coronavirus, Miller confirmed to NBC News on Friday.

President Donald Trump said earlier Friday that a "press person" named Katie was the Pence aide who tested positive. Earlier this year, Miller married senior Trump White House adviser Stephen Miller. Miller said she is asymptomatic, and that she tested negative a day before testing positive Friday, NBC reported.

Miller was at the White House on Friday morning before her positive result came in, a White House official told NBC. The official told NBC that Miller was showing "symptoms" while she was there.

Miller, who had handled communications for the coronavirus task force, did not respond to multiple requests for comment from CNBC.

Katie Miller, press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence, is seen in the Capitol during the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol on Tuesday, February 11, 2020.
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call | Getty Images

Trump's physician and White House staff "continue to work closely to ensure every precaution is taken to keep the President, First Family and the entire White House Complex safe and healthy at all times," White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

"In addition to social distancing, daily temperature checks and symptom histories, hand sanitizer, and regular deep cleaning of all work spaces, every staff member in close proximity to the president and vice president is being tested daily for COVID-19 as well as any guests," Deere said.

On Thursday, news broke that Trump's personal valet has also tested positive.

Pence was scheduled to travel to Des Moines, Iowa, in the morning, but his departure from Andrews Air Force Base was delayed by nearly an hour as staff dealt with news of the diagnosis. Reporters traveling with Pence said several staffers disembarked from Air Force Two just before takeoff.

Those staffers left the plane because they had been in contact with the staffer who tested positive, NBC News reported. In response to the positive test, the White House medical office has embarked on a program of contact tracing for the individual, an official told NBC. Some of these staffers have already been retested.

As of Friday, more than 75,000 Americans have died of Covid-19, and more than 1.2 million have tested positive. 

Yet Pence and Trump by and large refuse to wear masks, despite a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that face coverings be used to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

Trump has never been inclined to wear a mask. Moments after the CDC issued its initial guidance on masks in April, the president said, "I don't think that I'm going to be doing it."

This has not changed, even with news of his valet's positive test. On Friday Trump attended an event to mark the anniversary of VE Day, and neither he nor first lady Melania Trump wore a mask. 

Air Force Two sits on the tarmac at Peterson Air Force Base after Vice President Mike Pence delivered an address at the Air Force Academy graduation on April 18, 2020 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Michael Ciaglo | Getty Images

Pence drew widespread criticism late last month for not wearing a mask during a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Pence later said he should have worn one there, but that he didn't think it was necessary because he is tested frequently for the coronavirus. 

The president said Thursday that he and Pence would begin taking daily coronavirus tests, an increase from the weekly tests that had been White House protocol.

There was no word on whether staffers would also be given daily tests. Currently, the White House tests visitors who will come into close contact with the president before they meet with him, checks temperatures for press, and provides weekly testing for staffers.

On Friday, Trump held a meeting with Republican lawmakers at the White House where neither he nor anyone else wore a mask. During the meeting, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said they had all been tested before the meeting. "Nobody in here has the coronavirus, unless it's the media," he added.

Trump's valet, a member of the military, reportedly had very close contact with the president, including serving meals and helping him with his clothes and other personal needs.

Trump, however, denied having close contact with the sick valet. "I've had very little personal contact with this gentleman," Trump told reporters Thursday in the Oval Office. "I know who he is, good person, but I've had very little contact." 

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence stands among television soundmen, radio reporters and other media personnel all wearing protective masks because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic as he listens to Donald Trump speak during an event in honor of National Nurses Day in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 6, 2020.
Tom Brenner | Reuters