At least 22 in Trump’s circle have tested positive for coronavirus

Oliver Milman in New York
·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Tom Brenner/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Tom Brenner/Reuters

Covid-19 has created a dramatic situation in the Trump administration best summed up as “all the president’s men and women”.

At least 22 people across Donald Trump’s White House, election campaign and military leaders have tested positive for coronavirus in a flurry of recent infections.

Related: Two sides of DC: those threatened by Covid are unimpressed by Trump’s bravado

On Tuesday, Stephen Miller, the controversial policy adviser to the US president, became the latest to confirm that he has Covid-19 and will enter quarantine.

The group is headed by Trump himself, who left the Walter Reed hospital on Monday after receiving state-of-the-art medical treatment for the virus.

Trump, who has routinely downplayed the virus and disparaged the wearing of masks, posed for cameras without a mask after returning to the White House and tweeted: “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.”

Public health experts have criticized Trump’s comments, noting that people with the virus can still spread it to others for about 10 days after becoming infected.

More than 210,000 people in the US have died from the coronavirus pandemic, by far the worst death toll in the world.

Covid-19 reached into the heart of the Trump administration last week.

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A swath of Trump’s inner circle of family and allies has recently tested positive for the virus, including Melania Trump; the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany; the assistant press staffers Chad Gilmartin, Karoline Leavitt and Jalen Drummond; the aide Nick Luna; the adviser Hope Hicks and the former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, as well as Miller. A military valet and a military aide, along with another assistant press staffer, none officially named, have also been infected.

Meanwhile, a number of prominent Republicans have also contracted the virus, including the Republican National Committee chief, Ronna McDaniel, the former New Jersey governor and unofficial Trump adviser Chris Christie, the Utah senator Mike Lee, the North Carolina senator Thom Tillis, the Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson and Bill Stepien, head of Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.

At least nine of these people, including Trump, attended a White House event on 26 September for Amy Coney Barrett, the president’s nominee for the US supreme court. Assembled guests, most of them not wearing masks, were seated close together for the event, with some then mingling inside the White House, again without masks. Also at the event was the Rev John James, president of the University of Notre Dame, where Barrett was a law professor. James has tested positive.

The outbreak of Covid-19 has also affected senior US military leaders, including Gen Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and Gen John Hyten, vice-chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, who are self-isolating after at least two senior colleagues tested positive in recent days.

Gen Gary Thomas, a senior marine corps leader, has tested positive, as has Adm Charles W Ray, the vice-commandant of the US coast guard. Other military figures including Gen Daniel Hokanson, the chief of the national guard; Gen James McConville, the army chief of staff; Adm Michael Gilday, naval operations chief; Gen Charles Brown, air force chief of staff; Gen Paul Nakasone, the cyber command chief; and Gen Jay Raymond, the space force chief, are also in self-quarantine as a result.

White House staff have reportedly expressed fears that their workplace has been allowed to become an unsafe environment, with mask-wearing discouraged and even mocked.

The day after the event for Barrett, the White House held a gathering for Gold Star military families, who have lost relatives to combat, with pictures again showing the president and other officials not socially distancing or wearing masks while indoors. Those working in the White House are regularly tested for the virus, but officials have been opaque on when the president had his last negative test, before testing positive late last Thursday.

The senior military leaders are believed to have been infected during a Friday meeting in the “tank”, a secure Pentagon room for top military brass. Contact tracing and further precautions are being taken to “to protect the force and the mission”, according to a Pentagon spokesman.

The infections have occurred while the pandemic is still barely under control across much of the US. Half of all states are reporting an increasing trend in recent Covid-19 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. In total, more than 7.5 million people in the US have tested positive for the virus.

  • This piece and the headline were amended on Wednesday 7 October. An earlier version wrongly referred to some military leaders in self-quarantine as having been infected.