White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who often downplayed the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic and was rarely seen wearing a mask, has tested positive for COVID-19. At least four other White House officials have also tested positive for the virus, as did an adviser to President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, Nick Trainer, reports Bloomberg and the New York Times. Meadows reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday, but it wasn’t clear whether he had been experiencing symptoms. He told a small group of close aides about his diagnosis, and everyone was told to keep the news quiet.
The news of Meadows’ diagnosis likely has a lot of people close to Trump concerned about their own possible exposure. On Election Day, Meadows was at the Trump campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, where he was seen not wearing a mask. Later, Meadows was at the White House for Trump’s election night party, where there were several hundred people indoors, many of whom were not wearing masks. Meadows was not seen wearing a mask as he mingled and talked to dozens of people at the event, and he was in the room when Trump spoke at around 3 a.m. Wednesday morning. Earlier, Trump had been on Air Force One alongside Trump during the final campaign events on Sunday and Monday. Later in the week, he seems to have participated remotely in meetings to plot the president’s postelection legal strategy.
Meadows had long been seen as one of the biggest proponents in the White House of minimizing the threat of the virus and the pandemic to focus instead on reopening the economy. He often mocked those who wore masks and complained of reporters who tried to speak to him while wearing masks. A clip of Meadows refusing to talk to reporters at the Capitol when they asked him to keep his face mask on went viral last month. In late October, Meadows said during an interview that the Trump administration was not focused on stemming the spread of COVID-19 but rather on developing a vaccine and better treatments for those who contract the virus. “We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics, and other mitigation areas,” Meadows said on CNN’s State of the Union.
The initial effort to try to keep the news about Meadows private was in line with what happened when at least five people who work with Vice President Mike Pence contracted the coronavirus in the final stretch of the campaign. At the time, reports claimed it was Meadows who had tried to keep the news quiet. Meadows’ diagnosis comes a little more than a month after Trump tested positive for COVID-19.