FiercePharmaPolitics—Top U.S. health officials self-quarantine after COVID-19 cases in White House

Anthony Fauci speaks at the White House on April 16, 2020
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, M.D., is entering a "modified quarantine" after a "low risk" contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. (C-SPAN)

Welcome to the FiercePharma political roundup, where each Monday we’ll highlight developments in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere that could affect drug pricing and how drugmakers operate. 

As many businesses in America take steps toward carefully reopening, top U.S. officials guiding the pandemic response are dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak in the country's most high-profile workplace—the White House.

After a White House staffer tested positive for COVID-19, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, M.D.; National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, M.D.; and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, M.D., are going into partial or full quarantines for two weeks, CNN reports

Fauci described his contact with the staffer as “low risk." He’s starting a “modified quarantine” under which he’ll work from home for 14 days. He’ll wear a mask and get tested each day. Officials declined to name the staffer who had come into contact with the health officials.

Katie Miller, who serves as Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, has tested positive for COVID-19, according to reports. It wasn't clear whether it was Miller who had come into contact with Fauci, Hahn or Redfield or whether it was another staffer. Despite Miller's test result, Pence is not quarantining and plans to be at the White House today, CNN reports. A valet to President Donald Trump also tested positive last week, The New York Times reports.

The White House outbreak, which comes as dozens of states increasingly reopen their economies, demonstrates how businesses nationwide face significant challenges in ensuring worker and customer safety. No local business has the same resources as the White House, and the cases there only raise more questions about how average businesses can cope.

As the Trump administration fights the outbreak, the White House sent a memo to staff about precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19, according to CNN. Those included prioritizing telework and having employees self-monitor for symptoms. Staffers are now reportedly having their temperatures checked and being asked about symptoms before entering the building.

RELATED: Federal agency finds 'reasonable grounds to believe' Rick Bright's whistleblower claims: NYT 

Meanwhile, Fauci had been set to testify in person at a Tuesday Senate hearing on the pandemic, but the entire meeting is now set to be held remotely, CBS News reports. Redfield, Hahn and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir, M.D., will also testify at the hearing. 

That’s not the only high-profile hearing slated for this week. Ousted Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority Director Rick Bright, Ph.D., is set to testify at a House hearing to discuss his removal from the agency. In a whistleblower complaint, Bright has said his removal was due to disagreements with senior HHS officials throughout the pandemic response, including on the unproven drug hydroxychloroquine. A U.S. office found “reasonable grounds to believe” his claims and called for his reinstatement pending an investigation last week.

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