Interior secretary tests positive for COVID-19 after two days of meetings with officials: report

Interior secretary tests positive for COVID-19 after two days of meetings with officials: report
© Greg Nash

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has tested positive for COVID-19 following days of meetings with political appointees, a department spokesman confirmed to The Washington Post Wednesday. 

Interior spokesman Nicholas Goodwin told the Post in an email that Bernhardt, 51, received the diagnosis ahead of a scheduled Cabinet meeting with President TrumpDonald TrumpWendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Senate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Former acting Defense secretary under Trump met with Jan. 6 committee: report MORE Wednesday, which Bernhardt did not attend following his positive test. 

“He is currently asymptomatic and will continue to work on behalf of the American people while in quarantine,” Goodwin added. 

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The spokesman also said that the secretary is “following all CDC guidelines and consulting with medical professionals as appropriate,” and that, “Interior will continue to follow all CDC guidelines (i.e. identifying close contacts, cleaning work spaces, etc.) regarding the Secretary’s positive test result.”

The Post reported that Bernhardt has spent the past two days in meetings with a number of Trump officials, and also attended a portrait unveiling for former Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeGOP-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund unveils first midterm endorsements Trump's relocation of the Bureau of Land Management was part of a familiar Republican playbook Watchdog: Trump official boosted former employer in Interior committee membership MORE last week. Others at that gathering included Sens. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoMcConnell will run for another term as leader despite Trump's attacks Senate Minority Whip Thune, close McConnell ally, to run for reelection Biden's court picks face fierce GOP opposition MORE (R-Wyo.), Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesHillicon Valley: Amazon's Alabama union fight — take two Senate Judiciary Committee to debate key antitrust bill Overnight Defense & National Security — No punishments in botched Kabul drone strike MORE (R-Mont.) and Kevin CramerKevin John CramerHow a nice-guy South Dakota senator fell into a Trump storm Senate Minority Whip Thune, close McConnell ally, to run for reelection In their own words: Lawmakers, staffers remember Jan. 6 insurrection MORE (R-N.D.).

Two individuals who spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity to openly discuss internal discussions said that employees at Interior were informed that a holiday party scheduled for Thursday has been canceled due to Bernhardt’s diagnosis. 

According to the Post, Bernhardt is at least the third top Interior official to test positive for COVID-19 since November, following Daniel Jorjani after he served as an election observer in Pennsylvania and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Aurelia Skipwith. 

Bernhardt’s positive test comes the same day the State Department canceled its holiday party after Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoRussia suggests military deployments to Cuba, Venezuela an option The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Winter is here for Democrats Overnight Defense & National Security — Nuclear states say no winners in global war MORE was forced to go into quarantine after being exposed to someone with the virus. 

The party's guest list had included 180 foreign ambassadors, chiefs of missions and their spouses, the Post reported.

A State Department spokesperson had confirmed that Pompeo entered quarantine after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. He had tested negative, but was “being closely monitored by the Department’s medical team,” the spokesperson said.