Ben Carson, the secretary for Housing and Urban Development, is the latest White House staffer to test positive for COVID-19, a department spokesman confirmed.
Carson’s deputy chief of staff Coalter Baker said the secretary “is in good spirits” and “feels fortunate to have access to effective therapeutics which aid and markedly speed his recovery.”
The White House has refused to say who else has tested positive, even as the virus continues to spread. The latest White House cluster, coming just a month after Trump’s own diagnosis and hospitalization, includes a top Trump campaign official as well as a handful of undisclosed White House staff, officials said.
The White House has been increasingly secretive about outbreaks. That the virus would continue to spread in the White House — even though senior staff and those who come into close contact with the president and vice president are frequently tested — has come as no surprise to public health officials who have balked at the White House’s lax approach.
And polls suggest that attitude was a serious drag on the president’s reelection bid as voters concerned with the virus frequently chose his Democratic rival Joe Biden.
“The administration was cavalier about the risks of the virus for themselves and for the country. And that’s one reason why we have so many cases,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a public health professor at Johns Hopkins University’s school of public health.
Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he has been avoiding the White House since August “because my impression was their approach to how to handle this was different from mine and what I insisted that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing,”
Trump had long claimed that the virus was being hyped by Democrats to hurt his reelection chances and would “disappear” after Nov. 3.
Meadows in particular has long tried to play down the severity of the virus. He rarely wore a mask in public, except during the period immediately following Trump’s infection. At one point, he refused to speak to reporters on Capitol Hill after they requested he wear a mask.
He was again without one during Tuesday evening’s East Room event, where more than 100 of Trump’s most loyal supporters, family members and Cabinet secretaries gathered to watch the election results come in and see him deliver what they had hoped would be a victory speech.
It was a festive atmosphere, with half-empty glasses of wine and other beverages strewn across cocktail tables in front of news cameras. Meadows, who spent time with Trump’s family beforehand, was seen working the room, including giving several fist-bumps to those in attendance, before Trump took the stage early Wednesday morning.
Carson was there, along with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar — who did wear a mask.
While everyone who attended the East Room event had been tested in advance for the virus, there was no social distancing and minimal mask-wearing.
If Meadows tested positive Wednesday — as Bloomberg News reported — he would likely have been infectious during both events, said Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist who teaches at George Mason University.
The White House did not respond to specific questions about the current outbreak, but said that contact tracing had been conducted by the White House Medical Unit, consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
“Appropriate notifications and recommendations have been made,” the White House said.
The Associated Press contributed to this article