WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence has not been tested for the new coronavirus, he said Monday, two days after the White House announced that the president’s test had come back negative.
Pence said that the White House physician advised that he did not need to get tested because he hadn’t had a long exposure to anyone who’d been infected and neither he nor his wife have symptoms.
“I’ve not been tested yet,” Pence said. “But we’re checking our temperature regularly every day and we’ll continue to follow guidance.”
He used that point to emphasize that the priority for testing should be those with symptoms and health care workers. People should consult a doctor before getting tested, he added.
“That’s what my family is doing as well,” he said.
But Pence, who is spearheading the White House response to the coronavirus, has defied his office’s recommendation to stop shaking hands.
“As the president has said, in our line of work you shake hands when someone wants to shake your hand,” Pence told CNN last week. “I expect the president will continue to do that. I’ll continue to do it.”
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Before Pence disclosed at a White House briefing that he has not been tested, President Donald Trump was asked if he and Pence are trying to stay apart to protect the chain of command in case one of them gets sick.
“We haven’t thought about it, Trump said. “We’re very careful. We’re very careful with being together. Even the people behind me. They’ve been very strongly tested. I’ve been very strongly tested.”
At the Pentagon, however, the top two civilian officials will remain physically separated, according to Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper and his top deputy David Norquist, and their staffs, will communicate by phone and teleconference, Hoffman said. Visitors to Esper’s office are also being screened in an attempt to place a “bubble” around Pentagon leadership, Hoffman told reporters on Monday.
Trump announced at a press briefing on Saturday that he had been tested for coronavirus following his recent exposure to two Brazilian officials who later tested positive for the virus.
Trump took the test around the time a White House doctor issued a statement saying the president did not need to get tested or self-quarantined for coronavirus because he had not exhibited any symptoms.
Trump said Monday that he took the test anyway because “everybody was going crazy” at the press conference Friday when he was asked about his exposure to the Brazilian officials.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s communications secretary and another official tested positive for the virus after a visit to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort this month where he posed for photos with Trump. Pence was also at the resort.
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Contributing: Tom Vanden Brook and Courtney Subramanian, USA TODAY.