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Maine official warned of potential COVID exposure after visit to Pence



At least one elected Maine official who attended Vice President Mike Pence’s election event in Hormon last week was warned that he may have had close contact with someone who was positive for COVID-19.

Andre Cushing, a Penobscot County commissioner and former Hampton state senator, said he was linked to him last Tuesday – the day after the event – and took a test later that day. He realized on Wednesday that he was negative.

It was not until late Saturday that news broke that several of the vice president’s staff had tested positive, including a personal assistant and Pence’s chief of staff.

Cushing said he was part of a local advance team in Maine who helped with the logistics campaign for last Monday̵

7;s event at Dysart’s, a truck stop in Hermon. He was behind the scenes before the event and then sat in the VIP section outdoors during Pence’s remarks, along with several other high-ranking Republicans, including former Gov. Paul Lepage, former Congressman Bruce Polikin and State Representative Dale Krafts, who is fighting the United States. Representative Jared Golden in the second congressional district of Maine.

Vice President Mike Pence congratulates supporters after ending his rally last week in Hermon. Rich Abrahamson / Morning Sentinel Buy this photo

“I was told I was in close contact with someone who turned out to be positive and was advised to get tested,” Cushing said. “They only managed to share so much information with me. I think they were very careful. “

Cushing said the contact tracking system he spoke to was set up by the White House. He was not told the identity of the positive case he had been in contact with, which is a standard protocol for tracking contacts. He did not name people who were also behind the scenes, but said he did not know any of them.

A White House official who was not authorized to disseminate the information and spoke on condition of anonymity told the Press Herald late Monday that the positive case Cushing had an affair with was Marty Obst, a senior foreign policy adviser traveling with Pence. to Maine. The officer said that the tracking of contacts revealed that Obst had contact with a limited number of people behind the scenes and never entered the crowd.

Brent Littlefield, a LePage adviser who also attended the event, said the former governor had never been behind the scenes with Pence or any of his team and had not been associated with him.

Polikin, reached by phone Monday, also said he had not been linked to the White House or tested. The craft campaign did not respond to a reporter’s request, as did several members of the Republican Party’s communications staff.

Robert Long, a spokesman for the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the agency “did not receive a message from the White House or a campaign about potential exposure during Vice President Pence’s visit to Maine last week by noon on Monday.”

“The CDC in Maine could potentially be involved in tracking contacts if, as with any large gathering, evidence shows that the broadcast affecting Maine residents occurred during the event,” he said in an email. “The Maine CDC continues to encourage people not to attend large gatherings and to wear facials and to maintain physical distance whenever possible.”

Cushing said he was wearing a mask behind the scenes, but not everyone was wearing one. During Pence’s remarks, photos and videos showed that the masks were not widespread among those present, nor was there any physical distancing.

The same was true on Sunday when President Trump made an impromptu trip to the Treworgy family orchard in the Levant, near Bangor. Hours before his arrival, the CDC in Maine announced 61 new cases of COVID-19, the highest amount in a day since May. Cases are steadily increasing in Maine, which is among the states with the lowest levels of infection since the onset of the pandemic.

Both the Pence event and Trump’s visit violated Gov. Janet Mills’ executive orders, which limit large-scale gatherings and require masks in environments where physical distancing is a challenge.

The crowd in front of Dysart’s in Hermon, as Vice President Mike Pence said last week. Rich Abrahamson / Morning Sentinel Buy this photo

Mills criticized both visits.

“I’m sad because Vice President Pence is the head of the coronavirus task force, we talk together every week,” Mills said last week.

On Sunday, the governor of the Democratic Party appeared with his Attorney General Aaron Frey and the Speaker of Parliament and US Senate candidate Sarah Gideon to condemn Trump’s visit to Maine.

The timetable for the spread of COVID-19 through the Vice President’s inner circle is not yet clear. Pence’s test was negative on both Sunday and Monday, writes the New York Times.

The Times also reported that two people familiar with the matter said White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows had tried to prevent news of the outbreak from going public. Meadows told CNN on Sunday that the United States “will not control the virus.” Instead, he said the focus should be on continuing to develop vaccines and therapeutics to treat patients with COVID-19. The statement came on the day when new cases reached a record in the United States.

The vice president’s office confirmed that his chief of staff, Mark Short, had tested positive, but did not confirm the identities of other staff members. However, the national media, relying on unnamed sources, has, like the other two, Obst, who is Pence’s external political adviser, and Zack Bauer, Pence’s personal assistant or “body man.”

It is not clear who traveled to Maine with the vice president, although Bauer travels everywhere with Pence. According to CNN, Bauer has not been in the office since Tuesday when he returned to quarantine after contact with Obst. Bauer then tested positive on Saturday.

Several other Pence employees are under quarantine, according to the White House.

Pence continued his campaign throughout the past week in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, all major states on the battlefield.

Large-scale events organized by the president and vice president contradict all public health recommendations. There are now some speculations that the president’s rallies have left traces of outbreaks.

A USA Today analysis published on Monday found that COVID-19 cases grew faster than before, after at least five rallies in the following counties: Blue Earth, Minnesota; Lackawanna, Pennsylvania; Marathon, Wisconsin; Dauphin, Pennsylvania; and Beltrami, Minnesota.

Together, these counties saw 1,500 new cases in the two weeks after the Trump rallies than two weeks ago – 9,647 cases, compared to 8,069, USA Today reported. There is no way to determine definitively whether cases occurred during Trump rallies, but even in countries where cases have already increased, peaks in at least four counties that hosted Trump rallies have outpaced overall growth. of their country.

Cushing, a Penobskot County commissioner and former state senator, said he understood people’s concerns. He cited the August wedding in Milinoket as an example of how quickly the virus could spread.

“I’ll be honest, I resisted a little at first,” he said, referring to wearing masks and taking other precautions.

After learning of his possible exposure, Cushing said he was restricting contact with his wife and the elderly mother-in-law who lived with him.

Cushing said he planned to do a new test on Sunday, knowing that his initial test was only a day after his possible exposure, and if he caught the virus, it may not have been detected.

However, he said he postponed the test after learning that Trump was coming to the Levant so he could attend the rally and help park.


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