Stephen Miller, a top aide to Donald Trump, has tested positive for Covid-19, joining a growing list of figures close to the president who have contracted the virus as the White House scrambles to contain a growing outbreak.
"Over the last five days I have been working remotely and self-isolating, testing negative every day through yesterday. Today, I tested positive for Covid-19 and am in quarantine," Mr Miller said in a statement.
More than a dozen White House officials and others in the president's orbit have tested positive for coronavirus. Earlier this year, Mr Miller's wife, Katie Miller – who is Mike Pence's press secretary – contracted the virus.
Mr Miller, who has served as a policy adviser and speechwriter for Mr Trump,was among the most ardent defenders of the administration’s policy to separate children from parents.
An immigration hardliner who has publicly espoused racist and white nationalist ideas that migration and amnesty for immigrants would “decimate” the US, Mr Miller was also a key player in the president’s decision to ratchet up zero tolerance policies that resulted in at least 5,400 children being separated from their parents.
On Wednesday, less than two days before Mr Trump announced he had Covid-19, Mr Miller was seen boarding Marine One, the president's helicopter, when it left the White House to fly to Joint Base Andrews. He boarded the helicopter with other top advisers Hope Hicks, Dan Scovino and Jared Kushner. Mr Trump announced that Ms Hicks had positive for coronavirus last week, hours before confirming his own diagnosis.
Meanwhile Mr Trump, who is recuperating in the White House, tweeted his eagerness to return to the campaign trail on Tuesday even as the outbreak that has killed more than 210,000 Americans reached ever more widely into the upper echelons of the US government. Mr Trump faced intense criticism after returning from the hospital, where he spent three days, and staging a mask-free photo op outside the White House despite remaining contagious.
US military leaders were also self-quarantining on Tuesday following the Pentagon’s announcement that a senior coast guard official had tested positive.
Anxious to project strength just weeks from election day, Mr Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning that he was planning to attend next week's debate with Joe Biden in Miami. "It will be great!" he said.
Mr Biden, however, has said that if Mr Trump remains Covid-positive by the next presidential debate, the event should be cancelled.
"I'm not sure what president Trump is all about now. I don't know what his status is. I'm looking forward to being able to debate him, but I just hope all the protocols are followed," Mr Biden said, speaking to journalists in Hagerstown, Maryland.
“We shouldn’t have a debate” if Trump is still sick, Mr Biden added. “Too many people have been infected.”
So far, Mr Biden has been testing negative for the virus, despite having interacted with Mr Trump during the first presidential debate last Tuesday – when the president may have been infectious.
Katie Miller did not immediately respond to queries over whether she will refrain from seeing the vice-president, and whether she will isolate from her partner to minimise any risk of passing on the virus or contracting it again.
The CDC says that information about reinfection is limited, and recommends that anyone who has had close contact with an infected person quarantine for two weeks, unless they have had the illness and recovered within the previous three months, and remain without symptoms.– The Guardian and agencies