Interior Secretary David Bernhardt Tests Positive for Covid

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday, before a planned meeting with President Donald Trump.

Bernhardt, 51, did not attend the cabinet session after his positive result, which was received during routine screening at the White House. The White House did not include Bernhardt on a list of cabinet members who attended the midday gathering.

“He is currently asymptomatic and will continue to work on behalf of the American people while in quarantine,” Interior spokesman Nicholas Goodwin said in an email.

Bernhardt’s positive test result was first reported by the Washington Post.

It comes after a flurry of recent encounters with some of the agency’s top political appointees and staff, as well as a ceremony to unveil a portrait of former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke last week.

The agency, which is responsible for overseeing grazing, recreation, energy development and other activities on about a fifth of the U.S., has some 70,000 employees across the country. Most Interior employees in the Washington area have continued working from home during the pandemic.

Bernhardt, a former energy and natural resources lobbyist, was confirmed as secretary in April 2019, after having led the Interior Department in an acting capacity for four months. He was sworn in as Interior’s second-ranking official on Aug. 1, 2017.

Bernhardt has consulted with medical officials and is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, including by entering quarantine, according to an administration official. The department also is taking precautions, with at least one canceled event and putting in contact tracing efforts that began after the positive test result.

Bernhardt is one of a number of people in Trump’s circles who contracted the virus. The president himself was hospitalized in October after becoming ill.

Others close to Trump who have recently tested positive include his son Donald Trump Jr., Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and adviser David Bossie. A wave of earlier infections in October, when the president was treated, included first lady Melania Trump, White House adviser Hope Hicks; former adviser Kellyanne Conway and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo went into quarantine after coming into contact with someone who tested positive, Bloomberg reported earlier Wednesday.

The diagnosis earlier this month of the president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, prompted the Arizona legislature to pause proceedings after lawmakers there had close contact with him.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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