HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/WHITE HOUSEU.S. Vice President Mike Pence reacts to supporters outside the New Hampshire State House as he walks near his Chief of Staff Marc Short (L) after Pence filed candidacy papers for President Donald Trump to appear on the 2020 New Hampshire primary election ballot in Concord, New Hampshire, U.S., November 7, 2019. Picture taken November 7, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Mike Pence's chief of staff has tested positive for coronavirus, raising fresh questions about White House safety protocols as a key aide to Donald Trump conceded that "we are not going to control the pandemic."
With the Covid-19 infections in the US hitting a new daily record of 83,757 on Friday and topping 83,700 again on Saturday, White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows conceded the administration was powerless to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
"We're not going to control the pandemic, we are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations," Mr Meadows said on CNN's State of the Nation.
"It is a contagious virus just like the flu."
Joe Biden described Mr Meadows' admission as stunning, but unsurprising.
“This wasn't a slip by Meadows,” Mr Biden said.
“It was a candid acknowledgement of what President Trump's strategy has clearly been from the beginning of this crisis: to wave the white flag of defeat and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would simply go away. It hasn't, and it won’t.”
Mr Meadows' remarks came the day after Mr Pence's office confirmed that his chief of staff, Marc Short, had tested positive. there were unconfirmed reports other members of Mr Pence's staff had also been stricken by the virus.
News of the outbreak within Mr Pence's team came just over three weeks after Donald Trump contracted the virus, with the US president requiring several days hospital treatment.
Mr Pence and his wife, Karen, both tested negative and remain in good health, according to his spokesman, Devin O'Malley.
As chief of staff Mr Short, who has gone into quarantine, is regularly in close contact with Mr Pence, who has been spearheading the White House coronavirus strategy.
A Great Day in Florida! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/pDOc6VjgiE
— Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence) October 25, 2020
Mr Short has frequently been seen without a mask when accompanying Mr Pence on campaign trips - despite recommendations from the Centres for Disease Control that one should be worn in public settings.
The vice president did wear a mask when returning to Washington DC on Air Force Two after news of Mr Short's diagnosis broke.
Having tested negative, Mr Pence intends to carry on campaigning, his office confirmed.
He was in Kinston, North Carolina on Sunday and is due to attend another Make America Great rally in Hibbing, Minnesota on Monday
The continuing spread of the virus within the heart of the administration will be further bad news for Mr Trump with the election less than a fortnight away.
However, Anthony Fauci, America's top infectious disease expert, voiced some optimism that a vaccine could be approved within months - confirming Mr Trump's assertion during last week's presidential debate.
"We will know whether a vaccine is safe and effective by the end of November, the beginning of December," he told the BBC's Andrew Marr show on Sunday.
But it would take several months more before a mass vaccination programme could begin.
"When you talk about vaccinating a substantial proportion of the population, so you can have a significant impact on the dynamics of the outbreak, that very likely will not be until the second or third quarter of the year."