The Real Reason Mike Pence Is Not Self-Quarantining

You might be thinking, "Vice President Mike Pence does not have to self-quarantine because vice presidents don't get sick." In that case, it should be gently pointed out that vice presidents of the United States do get sick, some to the point of death. According to History News Network, seven have died while in office, the most recent (so far) being James Sherman, Vice President when William Taft was President. Sherman died of kidney disease in 1912.

Granted, Bright's Disease — what killed Vice President Sherman — isn't contagious. Covid-19 is, and highly so. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us that the most important tools for fighting the coronavirus have been self-isolation for individuals who test positive for the virus, whether or not they show symptoms, and self-quarantining for those who have been exposed to the virus by a close associate, to ascertain if the exposed individual becomes ill. Politicians are sometimes accused of living in an artificial bubble, shielded from the vagaries of ordinary life, but in this case, real life rose up and looked the Vice President in the eye: His press secretary, Katie Miller, tested positive for the virus on Friday, May 8. On Monday, May 11, the Vice President still wasn't self-quarantined, nor even wearing a mask when he showed up at the White House, as reported by CNN. "Several members" of the White House task force on coronavirus response, which the Vice President chairs, had self-isolated because of potential exposure.

Vice President Pence chairs the White House coronavirus response task force

CNN also reports Pence spokesperson Devin O'Malley saying the Vice President was following "the advice of the White House medical unit" and not self-quarantining. The Vice President has tested negative every day for the virus, O'Malley said. There is no guarantee that negative tests will continue from day to day; Miller tested negative the day before her positive test. (There doesn't seem to be a slow warning slide into the virus.)

If the Vice President were following the CDC guidelines, after exposure he would self-quarantine for two weeks after exposure, to determine whether or not he will develop the virus. So why was he not even wearing a mask? Hard to say. One analyst suggests it's because of the optics — if the nation has the virus on the run, as some suggest, it doesn't look good for the Vice President, chair of the White House coronavirus task force, to be self-quarantined. John Nance Garner, Vice President under President Franklin Roosevelt, observed that the Office of Vice President wasn't worth a pitcher of warm spit, as related by the Briscoe Center for American History. Unlike Mr. Garner, perhaps Mr. Pence has a lot to do.