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3 White House coronavirus task force members in quarantine

Three members of the White House coronavirus task force placed themselves in quarantine after contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, another stark reminder that not even one of the U.S.'s most secure buildings is immune from the virus.

Trump 'not worried,' but officials stepping up safety protocols in the complex

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks about the coronavirus in the White House on April 22. Redfield will be teleworking for two weeks after having contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. (Alex Brandon/The Associated Press)

Three members of the White House coronavirus task force placed themselves in quarantine after contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, another stark reminder that not even one of the U.S.'s most secure buildings is immune from the virus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a high-profile member of the coronavirus response team, is considered to be at relatively low risk based on the degree of his exposure, according to a representative for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Fauci, the 79-year-old NIAID director, has tested negative for COVID-19 and he will continue to be tested regularly, the official said in an emailed statement. CNN reported he will be doing a "modified quarantine," meaning he will stay at home and telework while wearing a mask for 14 days. Fauci said he might visit his office at the National Institutes of Health if he is alone. 

If he is called to the White House or Capitol Hill, he will go while taking every precaution, he said.

Watch: Three members of White House coronavirus task force in quarantine:

Three members of the White House coronavirus task force, including the U.S. top doctor Anthony Fauci, are now in quarantine. 6:34

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will be "teleworking for the next two weeks" after it was determined he had a "low risk exposure" to a person at the White House, the CDC said in a statement Saturday evening. The statement said he felt fine and has no symptoms.

Just a few hours earlier, the Food and Drug Administration confirmed that FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn had come in contact with someone who tested positive and was in self-quarantine for the next two weeks. He tested negative for the virus.

All three men were scheduled to testify before a Senate committee on Tuesday. Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, the chair of the panel, said Redfield and Hahn could testify by videoconference, a one-time exception to the administration's policies on hearing testimony. The statement was issued before Fauci's quarantine was announced.

Trump 'not worried'

Vice-President Mike Pence's press secretary tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday, making her the second person who works at the White House complex known to test positive for the virus this week. White House officials had confirmed Thursday that a member of the military serving as one of Trump's valets had tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday.

President Donald Trump, who publicly identified the affected Pence aide as spokesperson Katie Miller, said he was "not worried" about the virus spreading in the White House. Nonetheless, officials said they were stepping up safety protocols for the complex.

U.S. President Donald Trump is pictured in the White House on Saturday. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Miller had been in recent contact with Pence but not with the president and had tested negative a day earlier. She is married to Stephen Miller, a top Trump adviser. The White House had no immediate comment on whether Stephen Miller had been tested or if he was still working in the White House.

The CDC and FDA would not disclose the identity of the person who had tested positive and with whom the agency leaders had come in contact.

Top military leaders meet without masks

Redfield sought to use the exposure as a teachable moment. The CDC statement said if he must go to the White House to fulfil any responsibilities as part of the coronavirus task force, he will follow CDC practices for critical infrastructure workers. Those guidelines call for Redfield and anyone working on the task force to have their temperature taken and screened for symptoms each day, wear a face covering and distance themselves from others.

Trump has resisted wearing a mask, and in a meeting with the nation's top military leaders Saturday evening, he did not wear a mask during the brief portion that reporters were allowed to view. The generals around Trump also did not wear a mask, but participants did sit a few feet away from each other.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attends a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, senior military leaders and members of Trump's national security team in the White House on Saturday. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

FDA spokesperson Stephanie Caccomo said Hahn tested negative for the virus after he learned of the contact. He wrote a note to staff on Friday to alert them.

Six people who had been in contact with Miller were scheduled to fly with Pence on Friday to Des Moines, Iowa, on Air Force Two. They were removed from the flight just before it took off, according to a senior administration official.

None of those people was exhibiting symptoms, but were asked to deplane so they could be tested "out of an abundance of caution," a senior administration official told reporters travelling with Pence. All six later tested negative, the White House said.

Pence's staff tested less frequently

The official said staff in the West Wing are tested regularly but much of Pence's staff — which works next door in the Executive Office Building — are tested less frequently. Katie Miller was not on the plane and had not been scheduled to be on the trip.

Pence, who is tested on a regular basis, was tested Friday. Miller tweeted she was "doing well" and looked forward to getting back to work.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said the administration was stepping up mitigation efforts already recommended by public health experts and taking other unspecified precautions to ensure the safety of the president. He said the White House was "probably the safest place that you can come," but that he was reviewing further steps to keep Trump and Pence safe.

The White House requires daily temperature checks of anyone who enters the White House complex and has encouraged social distancing among those working in the building. The administration has also directed regular deep cleaning of all work spaces. Anyone who comes in close proximity to the president and vice-president is tested daily for COVID-19.

Trump's valet's case marked the first known instance where a person who has come in close proximity to the president has tested positive since several people present at his private Florida club were diagnosed with COVID-19 in early March.

The White House was moving to shore up its protection protocols to protect the nation's political leaders. Trump said some staffers who interact with him closely would now be tested daily. Pence told reporters Thursday that both he and Trump would now be tested daily as well.

With files from Reuters

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