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‘She recklessly endangered lives’: Backlash as Kayleigh McEnany tests positive for coronavirus after briefing media without mask

Ms McEnany briefed press on Friday and Sunday without wearing a mask 

Danielle Zoellner
Monday 05 October 2020 18:53 BST
Kayleigh McEnany removes mask to speak to reporters before testing positive for coronavirus

Members of the White House press pool have immediately reacted to the news of press secretary Kayleigh McEnany testing positive after she spoke to the media on Sunday without wearing a mask.

“Kayleigh McEnany has repeatedly spoken to reporters without a mask on. She has recklessly endangered lives,” New York Magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi tweeted mere minutes after the news broke.

CNN’s Jim Acosta shared an image of Ms McEnany’ speaking to the press outdoors briefly on Sunday without a mask on.

In a video of the press event, Ms McEnany was seen approaching reporters with a mask on. She then took off her mask once she reached the microphones to answer questions.

It was reported by NBC’s Peter Alexander that the press secretary also spoke to the press on Friday without wearing a mask.

“I wish you a speedy recovery.  And I hope the White House will begin to take appropriate precautions on White House grounds,” Jonathan Karl, ABC News chief White House correspondent said in response to Ms McEnany’s statement. 

The press secretary testing positive for Covid-19 highlights the false sense of security a negative coronavirus test can give a person after they are exposed to the novel virus.

It was announced on Thursday that President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for Covid-19 after news broke of senior aide Hope Hicks testing positive. 

Since then, Ms McEnany and other members of Mr Trump's inner circle, like Vice President Mike Pence, have received negative coronavirus tests. But Ms McEnany said in a statement that her test on Monday morning showed she had the novel virus.

“The positive cases at the White House just keeps growing with White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany illustrating that people can test negative several times before a positive test,” wrote PBS News’ Yamiche Alcindor. “She like many others had multiple possible exposures.”

CDC guidelines recommend for people to isolate after exposure to someone with Covid-19. But Ms McEnany, Mr Pence, and other White House staff and aides have continued their work in public while receiving multiple negative test results. 

Ms McEnany first announced she tested positive with “no symptoms” in a statement on Monday after testing negative every day since Thursday. 

“No reporters, producers, or members of the press are listed as close contacts by the White House Medical Unit,” Ms McEnany said, adding she was unaware of Hope Hicks’ positive test results until after her press briefing on Thursday. 

Her status as an “essential” worker allowed her to keep working on-site instead of isolating herself. 

Ms McEnany was pulled off Marine One on Thursday before the president headed to Bedminster, New Jersey, for a fundraiser. She was unable to go to the fundraiser because of Ms Hicks’ positive test, whom Ms McEnany came in contact with that week. 

Then the press secretary continued to work around the White House on Friday and into the weekend without quarantining. 

The White House Correspondents Association wished a “swift recovery” to Ms McEnany and the president after it was revealed another member of the Trump administration contracted Covid-19. 

“As of this moment we are not aware of additional cases among White House journalists, though we know some are awaiting test results,” a statement read. “We strongly encourage our members to continue to follow CDC guidelines on mask-wearing and distancing –  especially when at the White House – and urge journalists to seek testing if they were potentially exposed.” 

Other notable figures close to Trump administration who’ve tested positive for Covid-19 in recent days include Trump campaign boss Bill Stepien, the president’s “body man" Nick Luna, former New Jersey Govenor Chris Christie, Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, Trump longtime adviser Kellyanne Conway, Senator Mike Lee, and Senator Thom Tillis. 

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