US election: Pence to continue campaigning after staff test positive for Covid-19

Vice-president going to events across US despite chief of staff catching coronavirus

United States vice-president Mike Pence has vowed to continue campaigning in the final days ahead of the presidential election, despite several staff members – including his chief of staff – testing positive for coronavirus.

Mr Pence, who was due to travel to North Carolina on Sunday night for a campaign rally, has been a key player in the Trump re-election campaign, criss-crossing the country in recent weeks to make the case for Donald Trump as Americans go to the polls on November 3rd.

But it emerged over the weekend that his chief-of-staff Marc Short and at least four other aides to Mr Pence have contracted Covid-19. The vice-president and his wife Karen tested negative on Sunday morning, his office said.

The White House came under fire on Sunday, accused of blocking information pertaining to the new wave of infections in the administration, three weeks after Mr Trump, his wife, and several members of the White House staff tested positive for Covid-19.


White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said that it was a question of personal privacy.

“Sharing personal information is not something that we should do, not something that we do actually do – unless it’s the vice-president or the president or someone that’s very close to them,” he told CNN in an interview. Mr Pence, however, is believed to have had close contact with Mr Short.

Mr Pence is scheduled to campaign in Minnesota on Monday and in North and South Carolina on Tuesday.

With just eight days to go until election day, the president himself has embarked on an aggressive schedule of campaigning, with officials indicating that he will hold multiple events on each day leading up to the election.

After casting his vote in Florida on Saturday morning, Mr Trump held rallies in three states – North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin – before flying to New Hampshire and Maine on Sunday for campaign events.

Though New Hampshire has only four electoral college votes, Hillary Clinton beat Mr Trump there by a tiny margin in 2016, and the Trump campaign sees an opening to win the New England state next week. Similarly, Republicans are hoping to pick up votes in Maine.

The northeastern state is one of only two that allocate their electoral college votes by congressional district, with Mr Trump eyeing the second congressional district that is mostly rural and leans Republican.

Mr Trump will hold three rallies in Pennsylvania on Monday, with further stops planned in Michigan, Nebraska and elsewhere this week.

Biden campaigning

Meanwhile Mr Biden, who had no in-person events scheduled on Sunday, was due to take part in a virtual concert in support of his presidential run on Sunday night, after campaigning in Pennsylvania on Saturday.

A group of Trump supporters, driving trucks and waving Trump flags, arrived at Mr Biden’s drive-in rally in Bucks County and heckled the candidate from outside the grounds.

Later in the afternoon, Joe and Jill Biden were joined by Jon Bon Jovi in Luzerne County in the northern part of the state.

“Joe believes in the power of we,” said the award-winning rock star. “I believe that Joe knows that masks are not a sign of weakness, they’re a sign of strength and of respect,” he added, before performing a song: Do What You Can.

Meanwhile, Mr Biden's running mate Kamala Harris campaigned in Detroit, Michigan on Sunday, with the result that she was the only senator not to vote on a motion to move forward with Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the supreme court in the Senate on Sunday.

Ms Harris slammed the Trump administration’s response to coronavirus. “Over eight and a half million people have contracted this virus and will have unknown long-term health consequences,” she said, “and here’s the thing about it, it didn’t have to be this way. It did not have to be this way.

"Thanks to a fellow by the name of Bob Woodward we know that Donald Trump knew about this back on January 28th and then he has the nerve . . . to talk about how we're rounding the corner."

The vast numbers of early voters in the most consequential election in generations is fuelling what promises to be record turnout. Not since 1908 have more than 65 per cent  of eligible US voters actually exercised that right.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent