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HHS secretary's wife tests positive for Covid-19; he tests negative

Posted December 17, 2020 10:29 p.m. EST

— Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told colleagues on Thursday that his wife had tested positive for Covid 19 but that he had tested negative and would continue to work, according to a letter obtained by CNN.

"Today, my family learned that my wife Jennifer has tested positive for COVID-19. Jennifer is experiencing mild symptoms but otherwise doing well and has been self-isolating at home from the moment of her first symptoms," Azar wrote in a letter to staff at HHS, adding, "I have been tested as have our children, and thankfully we have received negative results and are not exhibiting any symptoms."

"Pursuant to guidance from my physician and our own public health experts, including consultation with Director (Robert) Redfield of the CDC, I will be carrying out the duties of my office while strictly adhering to CDC guidelines for essential workers, continuing to practice social distancing, wearing a mask, and monitoring for any symptoms," Azar continued. "In addition, I have been tested every day and will be tested every day until my exposure period has concluded."

Politico earlier reported on Azar's letter to colleagues and its contents.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that close contacts of those infected with the coronavirus quarantine for 14 days.

Azar's exposure comes as the number of Americans in the hospital with Covid-19 was at a record high for the 12th day in a row Thursday and more than 114,200 people were hospitalized with the disease, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

Azar has been with several other administration officials in recent days. He and Vice President Mike Pence both spoke at an event at the White House on Wednesday to celebrate administration efforts to curb abortion. Azar was with Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Monday, who is supposed to get the vaccine with Pence on Friday morning. Azar also told CNN's Jake Tapper on Monday, the day the first coronavirus vaccines were distributed to the American public, that "I got to see five" people get vaccinated.

The HHS secretary isn't the first administration official to have a close brush with the virus. On Wednesday alone, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt tested positive for the coronavirus, and the State Department announced that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is quarantining after coming into contact with someone who had tested positive. Pompeo had tested negative but is following CDC guidelines.

Many other top members of President Donald Trump's inner circle have tested positive, including his chief of staff, campaign manager, several top campaign aides, his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and several top White House aides. The President, the first lady and two of his sons also tested positive in recent months.

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