The U.S. Vice President's spokeswoman was the second White House employee this week to test positive for coronavirus, officials said on Friday, although President Donald Trump continued to be mask-free in memory of veterans in the 1990s during World War II.
News that Katie Miller had fallen ill has raised fears that the White House is at risk of becoming a viral hot spot as Trump leads efforts to address nationwide quarantine measures that are devastating the world's largest economy to have.
Miller is spokeswoman for Vice President Mike Pence and gives her frequent access to high-level meetings. She is also married to top Trump advisor Stephen Miller, the speechwriter behind the government's tough immigration measures.
A senior official initially said only that a Pence employee had been tested and had coronavirus.
Trump, who later spoke to Republican lawmakers at an event, identified the person as "Katie" and said that she worked with Pence as the "press person". This confirmed several US media reports that Katie Miller was the person in question.
As of Thursday, Miller was seen at an outdoor Trump prayer ceremony involving dozens of people, including Trump and Pence women and many senior executives.
Miller's positive test disrupted a trip from Pence to Des Moines, Iowa, with six people who may have been in contact with her to get off the plane.
"We went back out of caution and finally checked all of the person's contacts," said the senior administrator, who asked not to be named.
On Thursday, a Trump spokesman said the president's valet, a member of the military who is in close contact with the president, tested positive.
Trump and Pence have been tested and confirmed as negative. Both are tested daily.
The latest horror came when Trump pushed for a faster reopening of the US economy, which had been impacted by the consequences of mass blockades and social distance.
White House spokesman Kayleigh McEnany said there is no risk of a White House outbreak or threat to Trump.
"I can only tell you that we have made every effort to protect the President," she said in a press conference. "We clean the facility, we have social distance, we keep people half a meter apart."
– Trump: wind blows virus –
Trump has been criticized for refusing to follow his own health experts' advice on wearing a mask in public. Wearing a face mask is voluntary, but is recommended by many state authorities and federal doctors.
Few Trump employees ever wear masks.
Trump's latest public outing took place early Friday on the 75th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
The president, who belongs to the higher risk group for COVID-19 at the age of 73, met eight American veterans aged 96 to 100. Neither he nor the veterans wore masks, although he was a few steps away.
"I was very far from (the veterans)," Trump told journalists. "In addition, the wind was blowing so strongly in one direction that I would be very surprised if the plague ever reached it."
According to McEnany, the veterans "made the decision to come here because they chose to put their nation first. They wanted to be with their commander-in-chief on that important day. It was their decision to come here."
McEnany said wearing masks is a purely personal problem.
"This president will be tested regularly. This president will make the decision whether to wear a mask or not," she said.
Earlier this week, Trump made his first long-haul trip since the country's coronavirus blockage began and visited a Honeywell mask factory in Arizona.
Again, he did not wear a mask in public, although he turned to a room full of factory employees who all wore masks in accordance with company guidelines.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)