HUD’s Ben Carson latest Trump official to test COVID positive

Hud secretary Ben Carson speaks at Republican National Convention 2020.

Ben Carson, the head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is the latest member of President Donald Trump’s administration to reportedly test positive for the coronavirus.

Carson’s deputy chief of staff confirmed the news to ABC on Monday morning.

Carson, 69, is “in good spirits & feels fortunate to have access to effective therapeutics which aid and markedly speed his recovery,” the staffer said.

Before joining the Trump administration, Carson had sought the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2016. He served for nearly 30 years as director of pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

Carson attended Trump’s Election Night party at the White House with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows also contracting the virus.

Trump and President-elect Joe Biden held Election Night celebrations. Throughout the nation Saturday, after several major news organizations called the race for Biden, massive crowds gathered in Atlanta, New York City and elsewhere, celebrating the Democrat’s win.

The latest White House cluster, coming just a month after Trump’s own diagnosis and hospitalization, includes a top Trump campaign official as well as a handful of undisclosed White House staff, officials said.

Trump returns to White House after being discharged from hospital

That the virus would continue to spread in the White House has come as no surprise to public health officials who have balked at the White House’s lax approach.

“The administration was cavalier about the risks of the virus for themselves and for the country. And that’s one reason why we have so many cases,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a public health professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Public Health.

Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he has been avoiding the White House since August “because my impression was their approach to how to handle this was different from mine and what I insisted that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing,”

On Nov. 4, the United States recorded at least 107,000 new cases of COVID-19.

Meadows has tried to play down the severity of the virus. He rarely wore a mask in public, except during the period immediately following Trump’s infection. At one point, he refused to speak to reporters on Capitol Hill after they requested he wear a mask.

He was again without one during Tuesday evening’s East Room event, where more than 100 of Trump’s most loyal supporters gathered to watch the election results come in and see him deliver what they had hoped would be a victory speech.

Earlier that day, Meadows accompanied the president to his campaign’s headquarters in Virginia, where Trump received rousing cheers from several dozen staff and volunteers. Meadows did not wear a mask, nor did other White House staffers. Campaign aides largely did.

The Associated Press has released a report taking a closer look at the relationship between political preferences and COVID-19.

Meadows had also traveled with Trump in the run-up to Election Day, attending dozens of rallies where he was frequently seen interacting with supporters without masks.

While Trump had hoped his efforts to downplay the virus in a bid to revive a limping economy would help him with voters, many Republicans now believe that Trump might have won reelection had he handled things differently.

Still, Trump’s approach reflected the priorities of his supporters. AP VoteCast, a national survey of the electorate, found that about half of Trump voters called the economy and jobs the top issue facing the nation, versus just one in 10 Biden voters. A majority of Biden voters, meanwhile — about six in 10 — said the pandemic was the most important issue facing the country.

The White House did not respond to specific questions about the current outbreak but said that contact tracing had been conducted by the White House Medical Unit, consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

“Appropriate notifications and recommendations have been made,” the White House said.

The CDC defines “close contact” as spending at least 15 minutes within six feet of an infected person beginning two days before they test positive or exhibit symptoms.

Ohio pastor Darrell Scott, a close ally of the president who attended the party, said he was unaware any White House officials beyond Meadows had tested positive until informed by a reporter and had not been contacted by any tracer.

While Scott, like many in Trump’s orbit, continued to insist fraud was to blame for the president’s loss — despite no credible evidence supporting those claims — he also blamed Trump for several “unforced errors” during the campaign, including the way he talked about the virus.

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