It marked the latest coronavirus scare for the president, and the first known instance where a person who has come in close proximity to the president has tested positive since several people present at his private Florida club were diagnosed with COVID-19 in early March. The person tested positive on Wednesday, the White House said.
The White House was moving to shore up its protection protocols to protect the nation's political leaders. Trump said that some staffers who interact with him closely would now be tested daily. Pence told reporters that both he and Trump would now be tested daily as well.
Trump, 73, said the incident was a bit concerning. “It’s a little bit strange but it’s one of those things,” he told reporters as he hosted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in the Oval Office. “As I said, you know, I said yesterday, governor, all people are warriors in this country. Right now we’re all warriors.”
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement, “We were recently notified by the White House Medical Unit that a member of the United States Military, who works on the White House campus, has tested positive for Coronavirus."
He added, "The President and the Vice President have since tested negative for the virus and they remain in great health.” A person familiar with the matter said the member of the military who tested positive was one of the president’s valets. Several valets cater to the president and his guests at the White House, including serving meals and providing drinks.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Trump told reporters that he was tested Wednesday and again Thursday. He added, “I’ve had very little contact, personal contact, with this gentleman."
Trump said the health scare showed the “fallacy” of calls for widespread nationwide testing. “Testing is not a perfect art," he said, adding, “Even when you test once a day somebody could, something happens where they catch something.”
The White House began instituting safety protocols nearly two months ago, including frequent temperature checks. Last month it began administering rapid COVID-19 tests to all those in close proximity to the president, with staffers being tested about once a week.
Federal guidance has been that a person who was exposed to a confirmed case of the virus should self-isolate for 14 days, but a different set of recommendations apply to those deemed essential workers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says essential workers can continue to report to work as long as they monitor their temperature at least twice a day and wear a mask.
Trump and Pence have generally refrained from wearing masks, citing the fact that they are regularly tested. Trump told reporters his valets wear masks, and claimed “a lot of people in the White House wear masks.”
— AP writer Darlene Superville contributed reporting.