scrambles

Pentagon scrambles to retrace steps after White House COVID-19 outbreak

The Pentagon is retracing the steps of its top brass after a positive coronavirus case among senior officials forced Defense Department heads into quarantine.



Pentagon scrambles to retrace steps after White House COVID-19 outbreak


© Greg Nash
Pentagon scrambles to retrace steps after White House COVID-19 outbreak

News of Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray testing positive, which came after he attended a Sept. 27 White House event, broke after Ray had met with several other senior leaders at the Pentagon last week.

The Defense Department has since raced to conduct contact tracing, highlighting the stark difference between the Pentagon and White House, where administration officials have been reluctant to reveal key timeline details after President Trump and top aides tested positive.

“Simply because it is such a threat to readiness and can disable a ship, a building, a base, they take this very seriously,” Steve Morrison, a public health expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said of the Pentagon’s response.

“It didn’t seem they were looking to be micromanaged by anyone, they sort of kicked in to gear,” he added.

Top Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Tuesday that the Pentagon is “conducting additional contact tracing and taking appropriate precautions to protect the force and the mission.”

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for specifics regarding its contact tracing and what additional precautions are being taken.

Hoffman said Tuesday that all potential close contacts from the meetings involving Ray “are self-quarantining and have been tested.”

One of those close contacts, Gen. Gary Thomas, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, has since tested positive. He was quarantining when his results were announced by the Defense Department.

“We are aware of General Thomas’ positive test for COVID-19. At this time we have no additional senior leader positive test results to report. We will continue

Interior minister scrambles to dispel ‘slander’ he broke travel lockdown

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said Tuesday that someone was spreading an unfounded rumor among journalists that he had broken a virus lockdown by traveling from his Jerusalem home to be in the northern city of Tiberias for the recent Yom Kippur holiday.

Deri’s denial came as a fellow cabinet member, Environment Protection Minister Gila Gamliel, faced a possible police investigation for allegedly having tried to conceal from Health Ministry officials that she was in Tiberias on Yom Kippur, even though her home is in Tel Aviv. Gamliel was diagnosed with COVID-19 after the holiday, and reportedly gave misleading information during an epidemiological probe to trace the source of her infection.

Though Deri did not name anyone in his rebuttal, the former mayor of Tiberias, Ron Kobi, posted earlier in the day on Facebook that “another senior minister” had been in the city on Yom Kippur.

Kobi and Deri have a personal beef, as the minister was instrumental in seeing the mayor dismissed from his position at the beginning of the year after he failed to pass a city budget.

Ron Kobi in Tiberias. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

“A message to members of the media: There is a detestable liar going to reporters since yesterday and slandering that I prayed on Yom Kippur in a Tiberias synagogue,” Deri tweeted. “The liar already said that to four reporters in an attempt to frame me. On Yom Kippur I prayed in an open space next to my home in Jerusalem.

“Don’t fall into the liar’s trap,” he said.

In a video message posted on the Knesset Channel’s Twitter feed, Deri said that his public relations adviser had called him in a panic after a reporter had asked

Pence tests negative as White House scrambles to deal with its coronavirus outbreak

Vice President Mike Pence tested negative for the coronavirus on Friday morning, his office announced, suggesting that he might not have been infected by President Trump or others on the White House staff.



Donald Trump, Mike Pence are posing for a picture: Vice President Mike Pence tested negative for the coronavirus on Friday morning, his office announced. (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)


© (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)
Vice President Mike Pence tested negative for the coronavirus on Friday morning, his office announced. (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

“As has been routine for months, Vice President Pence is tested for COVID-19 every day. This morning, Vice President Pence and the Second Lady tested negative for COVID-19,” tweeted Devin O’Malley, Pence’s press secretary. “Vice President Pence remains in good health and wishes the Trumps well in their recovery.”

Pence’s office did not immediately respond to questions about when he was last in contact with Trump, who announced his positive test results early Friday morning. But during a rally in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Pence told the crowd that he had been in the Oval Office with the president earlier that day.

The news that Pence had tested negative alleviates some questions about the presidential line of succession if Trump becomes badly ill and is unable to perform his duties. As an elderly, overweight man, Trump is a prime candidate to develop serious symptoms from the coronavirus.

Pence is currently scheduled to participate in a debate Wednesday with Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee.

It’s unclear where Trump contracted the virus, but one of his closest aides, Hope Hicks, tested positive on Thursday.

The viral spread presents a nightmare scenario for the White House. Trump has been traveling in close quarters with top members of his administration and his campaign in recent days. The people closest to the president are tested regularly, but they rarely wear masks despite advice from public health experts.

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