WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence plans to continue campaigning, after his doctor determined Friday that he does meet federal quarantine guidelines despite some interaction with President Donald Trump this week.
It’s not clear how much contact Pence has had with Trump, who announced early Friday that he and his wife had tested positive.
But in a campaign appearance Tuesday night, Pence told supporters he’d seen first-hand Trump’s preparedness for that night’s debate.
“I can tell you I left the president earlier today in the Oval Office and he’s ready,” Pence said.
He had also joined the president for Rose Garden events on Monday and Saturday. Sunday, both the president and vice president attended a White House reception for family members of fallen service members.
Despite that, Pence’s physician said he didn’t meet the quarantine guidelines.
Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, told USA TODAY he would need more details about the extent of Pence’s contact with Trump to assess whether he agrees with Pence’s physician.
“It’s hard to know that unless you have first-hand knowledge,” he said.
The key period is the 24 hours before Trump developed symptoms.
Regardless of health guidelines, Pence should cancel campaign trips or transform them to remote events to protect the line of succession, said John Hudak, deputy director of the Brooking Center for Effective Public Management and a senior fellow in Governance Studies.
“The vice president’s health right now is just as critically important as the president’s health is,” Hudak said Friday. “And keeping him well…ensuring that he continues to test negative for COVID, is in the national security interests of the United States.”
The Centers for Disease Control recommends a 14-day quarantine for those who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Close contact includes being within six feet for at least 15 minutes.
Pence’s spokesman declined to comment.
But the Trump campaign announced Friday afternoon that Pence “plans on resuming his scheduled campaign events.”
Shortly after, Pence’s office released a statement from his physician saying he does not need to quarantine.
“Under the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Vice President is not considered a close contact with any individuals who have tested positive for COVID, including President Donald J. Trump,” Dr. Jesse T. Schonau said in a statement. “Vice President Mike Pence remains in good health and is free to go about his normal activities.”
Pence, who is screened daily for the virus, tested negative Friday morning as did his wife.
Pence is scheduled to debate Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris on Oct. 7 in Utah.
Trump’s previously announced campaign events are being moved to virtual events or are being temporarily postponed, according to a statement from campaign manager Bill Stepien.
Trump announced via Twitter very early Friday that he and his wife tested positive and were quarantining.
Hours later, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Trump was “feeling mild symptoms” but was “energetic.”
The White House had disclosed Thursday that Hope Hicks, one of the president’s longest-serving aides who traveled with Trump to a Minnesota rally this week, tested positive.
Katie Miller, Pence’s communications director, had COVID-19 in May.
Pence, 61, is head of the administration’s coronavirus task force.
Olivia Troye, who departed the White House in August after serving as a coronavirus adviser to the vice president, has condemned Trump’s handling of the pandemic – including his dismissal of the importance of wearing masks.
“Even in the West Wing, it was sort of you were looked down upon when you would walk by with a mask,” Troye, who has endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, said on NPR Wednesday. “And I just think that that is incredibly dangerous when that is the No. 1, you know, tool in the tool-kit that we have. It was appalling.”
Pence did not attend the presidential debate Tuesday. When Trump was in Minnesota Wednesday, Pence was in Atlanta. He traveled to Iowa Thursday for a campaign rally and to speak to crowd of Christian conservatives at an event hosted by the Family Leader Foundation.
Attendees sat clustered at tables of about 10 in the large conference hall at a Des Moines convention center. Few wore masks.
Pence touted the administration’s response to the pandemic, saying the nation has demonstrated “that we can slow the spread.”
“We’re going to continue to protect the vulnerable, continue to save lives,” Pence said. ” And we’re opening up America again.”
After Trump tested positive, Pence tweeted that he and his wife were sending “our love and prayers to our dear friends.”
“We join millions across America praying for their full and swift recovery,” Pence tweeted. “God bless you President Trump & our wonderful First Lady Melania.”
Pence had no public events on his schedule Friday. He filled in for Trump on an afternoon call with governors, according to The New York Times.
If he gets sick enough, Trump, 74, might need to at some point at least temporarily turn over his authority to Pence.
If Trump decides to temporarily cede power and duties to Pence it will be only the fourth time that step has been taken since the 25th Amendment was ratified in 1967 to create a legal mechanism for designating a head of state when the president is disabled or dead.
It was used briefly when Ronald Reagan underwent surgery in 1985 and similarly when George W. Bush was under anesthesia in 2002 and 2007.
The amendment both set up a process for the president to voluntarily relinquish duties and created a method – which has never been used – for powers to be taken away when others believe the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
If Trump himself decides he must temporarily step aside, he must notify in writing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley who, as the Senate’s most senior Republican, is the president pro tempore of the Senate.
Pence would then be in charge until Trump notifies Pelosi and Grassley that he is resuming his duties.
If Trump believes he can still do his job but Pence and a majority of the Cabinet disagree, a transfer of power to Pence would require the backing of two-thirds of both the House and the Senate. Lawmakers could also designate through legislation an alternative group – other than the Cabinet – that the vice president could work with to declare Trump unable to serve.
In an extreme circumstance, if the president were to die from the virus, Pence is first in line to succeed him.
Pelosi, 80, is second. The speaker tested negative for COVID-19 Friday.
Grassley, 87, is third in line. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, 56, is fourth.
The 25th Amendment was first used for a temporary disability when Reagan underwent surgery at Bethesda Naval Medical Center to remove a cancerous polyp in his large intestine in 1985. After the anesthesia wore off, his chief of staff and counsel asked if he felt well enough to resume his authority. He said he did and congressional leaders were notified, even though Reagan had said he didn’t think his situation was the kind the authors intended when creating the amendment.
Nevertheless, it was used twice again to temporarily transfer authority to the vice president when Bush underwent routine colonoscopies.
During Vice President Dick Cheney’s two hours as acting president in 2007, he wrote a letter to his grandchildren as a souvenir for them.
Contributing: John Fritze and Brianne Pfannenstiel