The Slatest

Former FDA Chief: Pence Puts Others at Risk by Campaigning After Coronavirus Exposure

Vice President Mike Pence greets supporters after a campaign event at Oakland County International Airport in Waterford, Michigan, on October 22, 2020.
Vice President Mike Pence greets supporters after a campaign event at Oakland County International Airport in Waterford, Michigan, on October 22, 2020. JEFF KOWALSKY/Getty Images

Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the “short answer is yes” when he was asked on Sunday whether Vice President Mike Pence is putting others at risk with the decision to continue campaigning even after several of his aides tested positive for COVID-19. “I would understand why they wouldn’t want to quarantine the vice president, but they need to be very explicit about what they’re doing, and the risks that they’re taking,” he said on CBS News. Gottlieb, who was FDA commissioner from 2017 to 2019, said that the White House needs “to be very explicit about what they’re doing, and the risks that they’re taking.”

Gottlieb said the key factor is you can “closely monitor” the vice president. But regardless of how they do it, we should be seeing an immediate change in the way Pence and the people around him behave given this heightened risk. Pence “should be wearing a high quality mask, an N95 mask at all times,” Gottlieb said. “He should be distancing wherever possible.” Pence should be undergoing lots of tests and everyone around him needs to be wearing a mask at all times. “They certainly have access to proper protective equipment, unlike a lot of other essential workers that don’t have that kind of access,” he said.

One key point that Gottlieb highlighted was that Pence is using “one of these antibody drugs as a prophylaxis,” which could help him keep infection at bay. Although there are some risks associated with using drugs in that manner, “You obviously do not want the vice president to contract this infection.”

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also weighed in on the issue Sunday, saying he was “a little bit surprised” that Pence is continuing to campaign after several of his aides tested positive for COVID-19. “I think everybody’s got to put the health of the people they’re going to be in touch with first,” Christie, who was hospitalized after he contracted the coronavirus, said on ABC News. Many have raised questions of how Pence was classified as “essential” even though he’s spending most of his time campaigning. But national security adviser Robert O’Brien insisted that the designation was appropriate. “Free elections are the foundation of our democracy. So I think campaigning and voting are about the most essential things we can be doing,” O’Brien said on CBS.

Beyond Pence, Gottlieb said that the United States is at a “dangerous tipping point” as the number of COVID-19 infections keeps growing. “We’re entering what’s going to be the steep slope of the curve, of the epidemic curve. We know what that looks like from the spring, we know what it looks like from this summer,” he said. “These cases are going to continue to build. There’s really no backstop here.”