By Kanishka Singh, Chris Prentice and Mike Stone
(Reuters) – Three senior officials guiding the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic were in self-quarantine on Saturday after coming into contact with someone who had tested positive for the disease, their agencies and spokesmen said.
Anthony Fauci, a high-profile member of the White House 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.
Fauci, the 79-year-old director of that institute, has tested negative for COVID-19 and he will continue to be tested regularly, the official said in an emailed statement.
Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “will be teleworking for the next two weeks” after a “low-risk exposure” on Wednesday to a person at the White House who has the disease, the CDC said in a statement.
Redfield is 68 years old. He is “feeling fine” and has no symptoms, the statement added.
If required to go to the White House, Redfield will follow the CDC’s safety practices like taking temperature, screening for symptoms each day, wearing a face covering, and distancing, the CDC said.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn, who is 60, is also in self-quarantine for a couple of weeks after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for the illness, an FDA spokesman told Reuters late on Friday.
All three officials were scheduled to testify on Tuesday to a Senate committee looking at steps that states and the federal government are taking to reopen businesses and schools after coronavirus shut-downs.
The coronavirus is especially dangerous to the elderly. According to the CDC, eight out of 10 deaths in the United States from COVID-19 have been people 65-years and older.
Hahn immediately took a diagnostic test for the coronavirus and the results were negative, FDA spokesman Michael Felberbaum said in an emailed statement.
“As Dr. Hahn wrote in a note to staff today, he recently came into contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. Per CDC guidelines, he is now in self-quarantine for the next two weeks,” the spokesman said.
Politico reported Hahn had come into contact with Katie Miller, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary.
Miller, the wife of one of Trump’s senior advisers, tested positive on Friday, raising alarm about the potential spread of the virus within the White House’s innermost circle.
Miller is married to White House immigration adviser and speech writer Stephen Miller. A valet for Vice President Mike Pence has also tested positive.
There have been some 1.32 million cases of the coronavirus recorded in the United States, with some 78,000 deaths, while overall there have been more than four million reported infections and nearly 277,000 deaths around the world, according to a Reuters tally as of early Sunday.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru and Mike Stone, Chris Prentice and Richard Cowan in Washington; Editing by Jacqueline Wong, Dan Grebler, Chris Reese and Frances Kerry)