COVID-19 hits Vice President Pence’s inner circle

(NBC) With just over a week until Election Day and the number of coronavirus cases rising to record levels across the U.S., once again there’s no escaping the virus’ impact on this presidential race.

Monday, we learned of at least four aides to Vice President Mike Pence who’ve tested positive for COVID-19. But that did not disrupt his plans to visit North Carolina.

The vice president’s mask Monday night is an outward sign of another COVID hot spot at the White House. At least four Pence aides are COVID positive, including his chief of staff, Marc Short, who is said to have “mild symptoms,” longtime political adviser Marty Obst, and others unnamed.

Despite close contact, Pence is not in quarantine. Aides say he and the second lady tested negative again Monday, so he headed to North Carolina.

Top White House officials defend that choice calling candidate Pence an “essential worker.” Under CDC guidance, “essential workers” should wear masks and keep distance but are not required to stay home 14 days.

Trump national security adviser Robert O’Brien explained, “He’s an essential worker, we’re talking about people going out to vote, we’re talking about people-essential workers going out and campaigning.”

Monday, the president got up close with many maskless voters at an apple orchard in Maine. While in New Hampshire, the president said nothing about new infections on Pence’s team while ignoring evidence COVID is spreading. “We are rounding the turn,” Trump told the crowd. “Even without the vaccines, we are rounding the turn, it is going to be over.”

Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows conceded the White House is focused on treatment, not prevention.

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