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White House Virus Case Sends Health Officials to Quarantine

Updated on
  • FDA’s Hahn, CDC’s Redfield have been exposed to the virus
  • Fauci will mostly work from home for two weeks, he tells CNN
Stephen Hahn
Stephen Hahn Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

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The heads of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are now quarantining after coming into contact with a White House staff member who tested positive for the coronavirus.

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn told staff about his self-quarantine plans on Friday, according to an emailed statement from the agency. CDC Director Robert Redfield, 68, will also go into quarantine, and will telework for two weeks.

Perhaps the highest-profile health official in the U.S., Anthony Fauci, will start a “modified quarantine,” during which he’ll primarily work from home and wear a mask continually for 14 days, he told CNN on Saturday. If he’s called to the White House or Capitol Hill, he will take every precaution on those trips, he said.

Fauci, 79, had minimal exposure to a known infected person, said a spokesperson for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which he directs.

All three are members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and are scheduled to testify to a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday. They’re now expected to appear remotely, by video.

The FDA didn’t identify the infected person with whom Hahn, 60, had come into contact, but his Covid-19 exposure comes as several aides working in the White House recently have tested positive for the virus. The Washington Post reported that Redfield’s exposure came at the White House on Wednesday.

Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, tested positive for coronavirus on Friday. Miller is the primary spokeswoman for the task force.

Miller’s diagnosis followed a positive test result earlier in the week for a member of the military who works as a valet to President Donald Trump. Miller is married to one of Trump’s closest aides, Stephen Miller.

White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett is a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers who returned to the White House this spring to work on virus-related matters.

“I would be a lot safer if I was sitting at home than I would going to the West Wing,” he said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “It’s a small, crowded place. It’s a little bit risky. But you have to do it because you have to serve your country.”

Separately, Ivanka Trump’s personal assistant also has tested positive for Covid-19, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be named discussing a private health situation. That aide doesn’t work on the White House campus.

Hahn, an oncologist, has led the FDA since December. The FDA has been playing a central role in the federal government’s response to Covid-19, which has claimed more than 78,000 American lives so far.

The most recent publicly-disclosed meeting of the White House task force was Thursday. Pence, who leads the group, traveled to Iowa on Friday for a round-table discussion on the U.S. food supply chain.

— With assistance by Jennifer Jacobs, Justin Sink, and Jordan Fabian

(Updates with Hassett comment from ninth paragraph.)