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Dr. Anthony Fauci and two other members of the White House coronavirus task force are in some version of quarantine after possible exposure to COVID-19. The move is a stark illustration of how the coronavirus is personally affecting some key administration officials at a time when many in the White House are pushing for economies around the country to reopen. Fauci said he would start a “modified quarantine” after he had “low risk” contact with a White House staff member who tested positive for COVID-19. Fauci’s exposure to the staffer was deemed “low risk” because he did not have close contact with the person and he has tested negative for the virus.
Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn told staff on Friday he would be undergoing a full self-quarantine after coming in contact with an official who tested positive. Robert Redfield, who heads up the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is also going into quarantine and will work from home for two weeks. Although no one is officially identifying to whom they were exposed, these quarantines are happening shortly after Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, tested positive for COVID-19. She often takes part in the coronavirus task force meetings.
Fauci’s “modified quarantine” means he’ll stay home for 14 days but may go into his office at the National Institutes of Health and could go to the White House if called. Fauci will also go to the Senate to testify in person at a hearing that will include several White House officials. Hahn and Redfield will also testify at the hearing but will do so via videoconference.
Miller, who tested positive for the virus, is married to top Trump adviser Stephen Miller, who has reportedly tested negative. One of the president’s personal valets, who, among other things, serves the president his meals, has also tested positive for COVID-19. And Ivanka Trump’s personal assistant has also tested positive but she has been working from home for nearly two months and has not had contact with Trump’s daughter for weeks.
The quarantining of three key officials in the fight against the coronavirus comes at a time when there is growing concern that the government’s top health experts are being relegated to the background as the White House increasingly focuses on reopening economies across the country. Case in point, the task force has not held a press briefing for almost two weeks. “It’s a blind spot that the federal government doesn’t see this first and foremost as a public health crisis,” Joshua Sharfstein, a public health professor at Johns Hopkins University, tells Politico. “This is the public health crisis of the century, and we’re sometimes treating it as anything but.”