As temperatures fall and coronavirus cases and deaths surge in the United States, a new wave of infections appears to have hit the White House as well. On Saturday evening, Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, tested positive for COVID-19.
Later that evening, Pence's office confirmed that Marty Obst, a senior political adviser to Pence who is not a government employee, had also tested positive.
In total, at least five close associates of the vice president have now tested positive for the coronavirus, according to The New York Times.
Pences test negative
Both Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, tested negative Saturday. Pence will not be suspending his movements despite having been in close contact with several of the aides who tested positive.
Both Pences also repeatedly tested negative after President Donald Trump and several other senior White House aides tested positive for the coronavirus in early October.
'Essential' Pence won't quarantine
Pence also then declined to self-isolate, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, continuing regular administrative and campaign operations.
Aides on Sunday asserted that Pence is not subject to recommended quarantine because he is an "essential" government official.
“While Vice President Pence is considered a close contact with Mr. Short, in consultation with the White House Medical Unit, the Vice President will maintain his schedule in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel," Devin O'Malley, a Pence spokesperson, said in a statement.
"He's not just campaigning, he's working" in the vice president's office, said White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on CNN's "State of the Union."
Who were the staffers who tested positive?
Meadows also declined to share the identity of the other staffers who had tested positive, noting that "sharing personal information is not something that we should do." But he added, "Anytime there's someone in harm's way, we have an obligation to let people know for contract-tracing."
Meadows also said that Pence, who is the head of the White House's coronavirus task force, will be wearing a mask and social distancing during his campaign trips on Sunday.
Short, but not Obst, traveled with Pence to Indiana Thursday and interacted with the supporters who came out for Pence's rally in Fort Wayne.
Short did not travel with Pence to Florida on Saturday. Aides who had been in close contact with Short were pulled from the trip before departure.
Biden, Harris react to coronavirus among White House aides
Sen. Kamala Harris, D.-Calif., condemned the White House for its handling of the pandemic upon hearing of the recent positive tests in Pence's orbit, saying that Trump and Pence had "forfeited their right to a second term in office.
"They are admitting defeat," Harris told reporters in Detroit. "And I've been saying that, and Joe Biden has been saying that since the beginning."
"This is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of America, and he went on to say you can't control it like the flu, and yet again, they're suggesting to the American people that this is like the flu when we have known from the beginning, and they knew since January, that it's five times more deadly than the flu," the California Senator emphasized.
Former Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement Sunday, "It's sadly no surprise then that this virus continues to rage unchecked across the country and even in the White House itself."
"It is particularly outrageous when the science tells us that if we just took basic precautions now, we could save thousands of lives," Biden lamented.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Marc Short, other Mike Pence aides positive for COVID-19: What we know