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May 10, 2020 - After White House staff members tested positive for the coronavirus during the past few days, three top U.S. health officials announced they are going into quarantine for the next two weeks, according to the Associated Press.

Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Saturday evening that he was beginning a “modified quarantine.” Stephen Hahn, MD, commissioner of the FDA, and Robert Redfield, MD, director of the CDC, also said Saturday that they would begin a period of self-isolation.

All three are members of the White House coronavirus task force. They all tested negative on Friday, their corresponding institutions reported.

Fauci faces a “relatively low risk” due to minimal exposure to the staff member who tested positive, the news wire reported. He will work from home but go to the White House if needed.

Redfield also had “low risk exposure,” the CDC said in a statement, and will telework for two weeks.

Hahn will also “self-quarantine” for two weeks, the FDA said.

The three health officials were slated to testify at a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday, according to Reuters. The committee is discussing ways that the states and federal government are reopening schools and businesses. The officials will receive a “one-time exception” to testify by videoconference, the committee said on Saturday evening.

News of self-quarantine came Saturday after several positive tests tied the coronavirus to the White House. On Thursday, the White House confirmed that one of President Donald Trump’s valets tested positive the day before. On Friday, Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller tested positive, and on Saturday, Ivanka Trump’s personal assistant tested positive, though she had been teleworking for two weeks.

The White House began testing Trump, Pence and other senior officials daily after Trump’s valet tested positive.

Hahn came into contact with Miller, according to Politico. Miller coordinated communications among coronavirus task force members. The CDC and FDA didn’t identify the person who tested positive and had contact with the health officials.

Other top health officials are monitoring the situation, the Washington Post reported. Alex Azar, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, tested negative on Friday and is “following the advice of his physicians at the White House Medical Unit,” a spokeswoman told the newspaper. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for HHS, has participated in meetings remotely since Tuesday and has tested negative as well.

On Friday, White House staff members received a memo that encouraged employees to “practice maximum telework” and “work remotely if at all possible,” the newspaper reported.

The memo said the White House will receive “heightened levels of daily cleaning” and that employees must report their travel.

“For any presumptive positive COVID-19 results, the White House medical unit conducts immediate contact tracing and notifies any affected individuals,” the memo said.

WebMD Health News Brief

Sources

Associated Press: “White House Virus Task Force members face quarantine.”

Reuters: “Three key U.S. coronavirus officials in self-quarantine after COVID-19 exposure.”

Politico: “3 top U.S. health chiefs enter self-quarantines.”

Washington Post: “Trump’s White House rattled after positive coronavirus tests and officials send mixed messages on how to respond.”

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