Administration

Pence, Harris test negative for COVID-19 ahead of debate

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Vice President Pence tested negative for COVID-19 on Wednesday, hours before he squares off with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) in the lone vice presidential debate.

The vice president and second lady both tested negative, a White House official confirmed. Both have gotten back negative tests each day since President Trump shared on Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump had contracted the highly contagious virus.

Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, also tested negative prior to the debate, the campaign said.

The negative tests clear the way for Wednesday’s debate in Utah, which has come under intense scrutiny as the White House grapples with a COVID-19 outbreak among high-level staffers. In addition to the president and the first lady, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and four of her deputies have tested positive, as have senior advisers Hope Hicks and Stephen Miller.

Miller’s wife, Katie Miller, is Pence’s communications director. She traveled with him to Utah, but returned home to Florida on Tuesday to stay with her family out of an abundance of caution. Katie Miller contracted the virus in May and has since recovered.

Pence’s proximity to the infected individuals has raised concerns about whether it is safe to go forward with Wednesday’s debate in person. The vice president’s office has insisted Pence is not at risk, issuing a letter on Tuesday night signed by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vouching for his ability to safely participate.

CDC Director Robert Redfield wrote that Pence is not considered a close contact with any of the people who have tested positive in the last week.

Harris and Pence will be separated by more than 12 feet of distance, with two plexiglass barriers between them. Photos of the barriers drew mockery on social media, as journalists and health experts noted that the virus could easily travel over or around the barriers if anyone in the room is infected.

Tags 2020 presidential election Donald Trump Hope Hicks Melania Trump Stephen Miller Vice presidential debate
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