Azar to Stay on the Job After Wife Tests Positive for Covid-19

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar’s wife, Jennifer, has tested positive for the coronavirus, but he will continue going to work and spoke maskless at a pair of events a day before her case was confirmed.

Azar announced the diagnosis in a letter to staff late on Thursday. He added that his wife had initially tested negative with a rapid test, which is less inaccurate, before results Thursday from a more-accurate PCR test showed she was positive. Azar said he won’t quarantine because he’s an essential worker.

Azar to Stay on the Job After Wife Tests Positive for Covid-19

“I will be carrying out the duties of my office while strictly adhering to CDC guidelines for essential workers, continuing to practice social distancing, wearing a mask, and monitoring for any symptoms,” he said, adding that the decision was made in consultation with Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“In addition, I have been tested every day and will be tested every day until my exposure period has concluded.”

Azar said his wife is experiencing mild symptoms and is “otherwise doing well and has been self-isolating at home from the moment of her first symptoms.” Azar said he and their children have tested negative and have no symptoms.

Azar is likely to be vaccinated early next week, a person familiar with the matter said. Vice President Mike Pence and Surgeon General Jerome Adams are set to be vaccinated during a media event on Friday. President Donald Trump hasn’t said when he’ll be vaccinated.

Azar’s statement didn’t specify what day his wife’s symptoms began, when she tested negative or when she took the PCR test that ultimately yielded the positive result on Thursday.

PCR tests aren’t normally returned within a day -- Azar’s letter described them as “non-instant” -- suggesting that she began experiencing symptoms Wednesday or earlier. Azar attended a pair of work events Wednesday, including a “Life is Winning” anti-abortion event headlined by Pence and held at an auditorium on the White House grounds.

Pence, Azar and others spoke without masks to an auditorium that had people in every second seat, most of them wearing masks. An announcement over the loudspeaker reminded them to wear masks, but not all did.

Earlier on Wednesday, Azar gave a 45-minute media briefing where he and a pair of other senior officials involved in vaccine distribution -- Moncef Slaoui and General Gustave Perna -- sat distanced indoors at a table and responded to questions from reporters who dialed in by phone. Azar took off his mask during his opening remarks but kept it on while answering questions.

“Thank you all for the incredible work you continue to do each and every day to protect and enhance the health and well-being of the American people,” Azar wrote to staff.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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