Robert O’Brien (left). Picture: REUTERS
Robert O’Brien (left). Picture: REUTERS

Washington — US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien tested positive for Covid-19 but the White House said his infection poses no risk to the president nor Vice-President Mike Pence.

O’Brien “has mild symptoms and has been self-isolating and working from a secure location off site”, the White House said in a statement. “There is no risk of exposure to the president or the vice-president.”

O’Brien, the closest person to the president known to have contracted the disease, has been out of the office since late last week, according to a person familiar with the matter.

O’Brien caught the virus while taking a few days off from work, spending time with his family, according to people familiar with the matter. He suspects he got the virus from a relative who started to develop symptoms, the people said.

O’Brien initially tested negative before receiving a positive result, they said. He has not seen Trump since before his holiday.

Since his diagnosis, O’Brien has been isolating at home while still running the National Security Council, doing most of his work by phone, another person said. The people asked not to be named to discuss details that are not  yet public.

O’Brien and senior staff on the council are tested daily for Covid-19. His office is near the Oval Office and Pence’s West Wing office.

O’Brien’s infection comes as the pandemic continues to surge with infections and deaths on the rise in many US states. Trump last week resumed regular briefings to reporters about the virus after polls showed voters increasingly disapprove of the president’s handling of the virus.

There have been 16.2-million cases of coronavirus worldwide since the pandemic began earlier this year, with deaths passing 648,000, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. In the US, there have been more than 4.2-million cases and 146,935 deaths, according to the data.

The president has changed his message in recent days on the virus.

Last week, Trump abruptly called off Republican national convention activities set for August in Jacksonville, Florida, citing concerns over the outbreak. He began promoting use of masks after downplaying the need for them. Trump also said some public schools may not be able to open on time in virus hot spots, after earlier calling on them to restart.

Council staff were not informed that O’Brien had tested positive, one person familiar with the matter said. Some found out through press reports, they said.


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