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Trump Campaign Manager Latest To Join Burgeoning COVID Cluster In President's Circle

Cascade of cases appears to be largely linked to Rose Garden announcement of Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court.

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US President Donald Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien — who traveled with Trump to his debate with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden — has tested positive for COVID-19.

That makes at least six in Trump’s circle, including the president and First Lady Melania Trump, who have tested positive in the last few days.

Stepien was diagnosed Friday and was experiencing what one source told Politico was “mild flu-like symptoms.” He reportedly plans to self-quarantine until he recovers, and hopes to continue to be in charge of Trump’s campaign.

The growing list of people connected to the White House with COVID appears to be largely linked to the announcement of Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court at an event in the Rose Garden last Saturday where few people wore face masks, sat side by side, and many shook hands.

Former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, along with Senator Mike Lee and Senator Thom Tillis — both members of the Senate Judiciary Committee — attended the event and have all tested positive. Rev. John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame and a member of the Commission on Presidential Debates, also contracted COVID after attending the ceremony, as did Trump and his wife.

Barrett recovered from COVID earlier this year. But epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding, a senior fellow of the Federation of American Scientists, warned that her previous bout with COVID does not preclude reinfection.

Lee and others also met with Barrett inside the White House later in the day. Lee tested positive Friday, but on Thursday attended a nearly 90-minute Senate Judiciary Committee hearing without a mask for at least part of the time.

Senior White House aide Hope Hicks did not attend the Rose Garden event, but tested positive after traveling with the president, it was announced Thursday.

Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, also tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, but that was after suspected exposure to an ill family member, according to an RNC spokesperson. She has been home in Michigan since last Saturday, Politico reported.

An unidentified journalist covering the Barrett announcement also tested positive. Two other White House reporters, who didn’t attend the Rose Garden event, contracted the coronavirus in what may be a second stage of infections from the nomination event.

“The White House Medical Unit is beginning the process of contact tracing for these cases,” said a statement Saturday to members from the White House Correspondents Association.

“Given these positive cases, the president’s diagnosis and positive cases among other members of the White House staff, a number of White House journalists are self-isolating pending diagnostic testing,” the statement noted.

“Due to cases linked to the pools last weekend and the large number of press credentialed for the 9/26 Rose Garden event, we ask that if you were on the White House grounds or in the pools those days, that you pay extra attention to any changes in your health.”

An official of World Health Organisation sounded the alarm Friday about what he characterised as a troubling White House “cluster” — and criticised the government for its failure to effectively deal with the pandemic.

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