Editorial: Yet another White House outbreak


The ISD Editorial Board argues the latest COVID-19 outbreak from Vice President Mike Pence’s staff shows how little the White House cares about keeping people safe from the virus. 

Editorial Board

The White House fails, time and time again, to control the COVID-19 outbreak, even within its own doors.

Nothing exemplifies this better than the fact President Donald Trump and at least three dozen other people all tested positive for COVID-19 following a superspreader event at the White House. 

As it turns out, the outbreaks didn’t stop there. 

Marc Short, chief of staff to the vice president of the United States, recently tested positive for coronavirus. This makes at least four Pence aides and members of his inner circle who tested positive (though the VP himself repeatedly tested negative). 

Pence, head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, not only refused to isolate but continued to campaign for Trump, blatantly disregarding all guidelines for close contacts established by the Coronavirus Task Force in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

He did so by claiming he followed CDC guidelines for essential personnel. 

The CDC doesn’t list campaign rallies as an essential function or critical infrastructure, but that apparently doesn’t matter to Pence. 

True, he did technically follow the guidelines for “essential personnel,” by wearing a mask and staying 6 feet away from the crowds — but he encouraged others to break general guidelines by hosting events and rallies, including one in Des Moines last week. 

The pattern here is obvious. It seems like they’ve simply given up trying to contain COVID-19 in any capacity. Actually, scratch that. They’ve completely given up. 

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said “We are not going to control the pandemic,” and pointed to vaccines and therapeutics as the most important areas of focus. 

While a return to normal hinges on the widespread use of a vaccine, there’s no vaccine currently approved for distribution. Focusing on developing a vaccine while ignoring the ever-increasing number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths will only create an even larger crisis as we approach winter. 

This quote from Meadows reflects the Trump administration’s entire COVID-19 policy — or lack thereof. 

While his comment was a bit brazen for a senior White House official, it’s not anything we didn’t already know. The Trump administration clearly no longer cares (if they ever did) about controlling COVID-19, even within the White House itself. 

Are any of us really surprised? All you need to do is look at their behavior from April until now. Nothing changed, they’re just more obvious about it. 

The outbreak surrounding Pence staff members is simply the latest in a series of missteps and reckless behavior conducted by the Trump administration.

From Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination party to the many, many rallies and events, Trump and his administration have proven they do not care about any COVID-19 guidelines or safety measures. 

If they can’t keep themselves safe, why should we trust them to keep us safe? 

To be fair to the Pence aides, many staff members at the White House lack any say in what goes on. They do their jobs, and it’s not fair to shame them for getting sick on the job, so to speak. 

Do not shame other people for getting sick. Even by following every single guideline and staying home as much as possible, you can still get sick. Your chances of catching the virus by taking these precautions are diminished but not eradicated completely. 

You absolutely should call out people engaging in reckless behavior and endangering the health of others, as the editorial board did here. But shaming the staff in Pence’s Cabinet who caught COVID-19 solves nothing. They may have followed COVID-19 guidelines at home and in the workplace, even if Trump and Pence blatantly do not. We don’t know for sure and that’s not the point.

Regardless, we need to extend more empathy for those who get sick. Criticize those who abandon COVID-19 guidelines; show empathy for individuals when they become sick. 

In the meantime, do your part. Wash your hands, wear a mask and practice social distancing. Keep yourself and the people around you safe and healthy.