After officials acknowledged over the weekend that another coronavirus outbreak had struck the White House, infecting Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff and four other top aides, Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, essentially offering a verbal shrug on CNN on Sunday: “We’re not going to control the pandemic.”
“We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations, because it is a contagious virus — just like the flu,” Mr. Meadows said.
President Trump made no reference to the new cases during campaign rallies in New Hampshire and Maine on Sunday. But for voters, the new wave of infections at the White House just over a week before Election Day was a visceral reminder of the president’s dismissive and erratic handling of the virus, even in one of the most secure spaces in the country. And it comes just as the United States suffers its third surge in infections, with a record number of daily new cases on Friday and a death toll that has passed 225,000.
The past week has been the worst seven-day stretch of the pandemic so far in the United States, with a daily average of 69,804 new cases reported. Alaska set a single-day record for new cases for the third day in a row, and 19 states announced more cases in the past seven days than any other seven-day stretch of the pandemic.
Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, said Sunday that the statement by Mr. Meadows was “an acknowledgment of what President Trump’s strategy has clearly been from the beginning of this crisis: to wave the white flag of defeat and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would simply go away. It hasn’t, and it won’t.”
Mr. Pence tested negative for the virus on Sunday, and said he would not quarantine after his exposure to infected aides, who include Marc Short, his chief of staff, and Marty Obst, a senior adviser. His spokesman would not say whether Mr. Pence was receiving some of the drugs Mr. Trump was given, including an experimental cocktail of antibodies by the pharmaceutical company Regeneron, as a preventive measure.
In a statement, the White House deemed the vice president “essential” and said he would stick to his campaign schedule. That included an address on Sunday evening to supporters in Kinston, N.C., where Mr. Pence made no reference to the cases that had infiltrated his staff and instead defended the administration’s coronavirus response as the “greatest national mobilization since World War II.”