White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and two of her staffers have tested positive for COVID-19, just days after the president revealed a similar diagnosis. McEnany said she has tested positive “while experiencing no symptoms.”
McEnany, who is one of 12 officials in a growing list of Trumpworld figures to test positive for the highly contagious virus after attending an event at the Rose Garden last Saturday, most recently interacted with reporters on Sunday evening—and was maskless. Multiple news outlets also reported that at least two other members of the White House press shop—Chad Gilmartin and Karoline Leavitt—have tested positive. Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship, who went to a prayer march with Vice President Mike Pence and Franklin Graham before attending the Rose Garden ceremony, announced Monday he has also tested positive for the deadly virus.
“No reporters, producers, or members of the press are listed as close contacts by the White House Medical Unit,” she said in the statement. “As an essential worker, I have worked diligently to provide needed information to the American People at this time. With my recent positive test, I will begin the quarantine process and will continue working on behalf of the American People remotely.”
Top Trump top aide Hope Hicks was confirmed to have the virus on Thursday, just hours before the president himself announced he and the first lady had also contracted it.
While the press secretary does frequently interact with Trump, she did not travel with him to a Thursday fundraiser in New Jersey after learning of Hicks’ positive COVID-19 diagnosis. McEnany, however, stresses she did not know Hicks tested positive when she spoke to reporters Thursday and did not quarantine or self-isolate despite her close contact with the White House adviser and the president.
“I definitively had no knowledge of Hope Hicks’ diagnosis prior to holding a White House press briefing on Thursday,” McEnany wrote Monday.
On Friday, McEnany, 32, appeared on Fox News and removed her mask to interact with reporters on the White House driveway. During her Sunday gaggle with reporters, McEnany reportedly said the White House would not be releasing the number of staffers who have tested positive for COVID-19 because of privacy concerns. She also declined to provide a timeline of Trump’s recent testing schedule.
According to the White House Correspondents Association, at least three journalists who had been at the White House over the last week have tested positive for the coronavirus.
“We wish Kayleigh, the president and everyone else struggling with the virus a swift recovery,” the White House Correspondents Association said in a Monday statement. “As of this moment we are not aware of additional cases among White House journalists, though we know some are awaiting results.”
Ben Williamson, a senior communications adviser at the White House, tweeted Monday in defense of McEnany’s lack of a mask use, stating that, during her last interaction with reporters, the press secretary “briefly removed her mask at the mic to answer questions, was there for two questions and only 58 seconds (would not constitute ‘sustained contact’ per the CDC), and was socially distanced from reporters in the area.”
Trump revealed early Friday morning that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, which has already killed nearly 210,000 Americans. Hours later, he was moved to Walter Reed Medical Center, where he is set to leave on Monday after spending three days there.
“I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M.,” Trump tweeted on Monday afternoon. “Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”
The president and many in his inner circle have been spotted maskless at recent campaign rallies, as well as an event in the White House Rose Garden last weekend where Trump announced his Supreme Court nominee.
The string of recent COVID-19 cases inside the White House has rattled aides, according to ABC News. Multiple sources told the outlet states there is a “full-blown freak-out” inside the White House after news Monday of McEnany and her two aides’ diagnosis—as staffers wait to see who will be the next person to contract the deadly virus.
McEnany’s diagnosis makes her one of 12 COVID-positive attendees of the Rose Garden event for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, where few masks were seen on faces and many flouted social-distancing guidelines with hugs and close seating arrangements. Among those who attended and have since tested positive are Trump, first lady Melania Trump, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and University of Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins.
Photos of the gathering show McEnany seated just behind Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler, Sen. Lee, and Vice President Mike Pence. Gilmartin and Leavitt also appeared to have attended the Rose Garden event and posted pictures expressing their support for Barrett on Twitter.
“Judge Coney Barrett is a HIGHLY QUALIFIED nominee who will interpret the law as written. Congratulations!” Gilmartin tweeted. Leavitt, who appeared to be sitting near him at the ceremony, noted that Trump’s nominee is “the first mother of school-age children to be nominated for the highest Court in the land! History made, and another glass ceiling shattered at the White House today!”
Laurie, a California megachurch pastor, confirmed on Twitter Monday that he tested positive for COVID-19 last Friday and has been in quarantine since then with his wife.
“I just wish that at a time like this we could not politicize this and show compassion to people that are struggling with this. It’s real. It really is a pandemic that’s swept our nation and even the world,” Laurie said in a Monday video statement. “If the president of the United States can get it, obviously anybody can get it.”
While the Rose Garden ceremony was held outside, which public-health experts have stressed can help limit the spread of the deadly virus with proper social distancing, there were also intimate, mask-free gatherings indoors.
There is no confirmation that any of these attendees contracted the virus in the Rose Garden, but the fact that so many tested positive within days raises questions about whether it may have been a superspreader event.
White House spokesperon Brian Morgenstern disputed that theory on Monday during an interview on Fox News, insisting Barrett’s ceremony could not be a “superspreader” event because the positive tests came back too many days later.
“People were sort of jumping to conclusions there,” Morgenstern said after falsely stating the incubation period for COVID-19 is 48 hours. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says coronavirus symptoms generally appear two to 14 days after exposure, and the Trumpworld figures who have tested positive all fell ill within that window.
Michael D. Shear, a New York Times reporter who believes he contracted COVID-19 either at the White House or on Air Force One, said in an interview with CNN he still has had no contact with any officials since his positive diagnosis—despite the White House’s insistence that “full contact tracing” was taking place.
“It’s now, you know, 10 days, 11 days, whatever, since I think I was probably infected on that Saturday. I have not been contacted by the White House,” Shear said in an interview with CNN, noting he visited the White House last Saturday ahead of taking a flight on the presidential plane. “Nobody from the White House has said ‘boo’ and asked anything about where I was, who I talked to, or who else I might have infected. I think that just shows you they’re not taking it seriously, at least as it pertains to theirselves.”
In April, McEnany took over the press secretary role after serving as a Trump campaign spokesperson. As the administration’s fourth press secretary, McEnany has been a staunch defender of the president’s COVID-19 response.