Kellyanne Conway tests positive for COVID, with ‘mild’ symptoms, as epidemic spreads through Trump circle

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WASHINGTON — Kellyanne Conway, until recently one of President Trump’s most visible aides and staunchest defenders, announced on Friday night she had “tested positive for COVID,” becoming at least the 10th person who was in the White House to come down with the illness this week. 

“Tonight I tested positive for COVID-19. My symptoms are mild (light cough) and I’m feeling fine. I have begun a quarantine process in consultation with physicians,” Conway wrote on Twitter. ”As always, my heart is with everyone affected by this global pandemic.” 

Conway’s diagnosis was made public hours after Trump was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center with symptoms of COVID-19. Early Friday morning, Trump announced that he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus, the cause of the disease. Their diagnoses came after Bloomberg reported that a top staffer, Hope Hicks, tested positive. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement that Trump also had “mild symptoms” and was taken to the medical facility “out of an abundance of caution.”

Conway, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, was one of the president’s closest aides and served as his third campaign manager during the 2016 election. In that role, she became the first woman to manage a successful presidential bid. She joined the administration as a counselor to the president but left the White House at the end of August, citing a desire to focus on her family

Former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)Former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
Former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Her husband, George Conway, has been an outspoken “Never Trump” Republican who helped found an organization dedicated to getting conservatives to back Biden, and her daughter, Claudia, had made viral social media posts critical of Trump.

Though she left Trump’s staff, Conway remained in the White House orbit and she was in attendance in the Rose Garden on Sept. 26 when Trump announced his Supreme Court justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett before a large, mostly unmasked crowd of supporters. Conway is now the seventh person who attended that event to test positive, a list that includes Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Notre Dame University President Rev. John Jenkins. Lee and Tillis are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is scheduled to hold hearings on Barrett’s nomination later this month.

Three reporters in the White House press corps have also tested positive

The outbreak among people in Trump’s circle comes after months of campaign rallies by the president in cities around the country before large crowds, sometimes in defiance of local social distancing regulations and mask mandates. Trump repeatedly downplayed and dismissed the dangers of the pandemic, which has left over 209.000 Americans dead and over 7.3 million infected.

In the past week, Trump’s campaign held multiple rallies and a large fundraiser in Washington. Mercedes Schlapp, a top campaign adviser who attended the Rose Garden event, also held a party at her home on Tuesday night where guests watched Trump’s presidential debate against Joe Biden. Many of these events featured some of the same attendees, members of Trump’s family and other Republican officials. On Thursday, after Hicks’s diagnosis, Trump traveled with his entourage onboard Air Force One to host a high-dollar fundraising event at his resort in Bedminster, N.J., where he mingled with scores of supporters. Along with the Rose Garden ceremony, the gatherings created a dizzying array of contacts and potential exposures that could have implications on Capitol Hill and with Biden’s team. 

Conway’s departure from the White House came after increasingly public political disagreements among her family. Her husband, George Conway, posted multiple tweets after the news of his wife’s diagnosis saying he was “LIVID” with the Trump White House’s cavalier attitude towards masks and social distancing. One of his posts included a photo of the packed crowd in the Rose Garden.

In June, the couple’s teenage daughter Claudia gained notoriety for posting messages on TikTok critical of her mother and Trump. Claudia was the first to reveal her mother’s diagnosis via a series of videos on the social media site where she sported a mask under captions that declared “my mom has covid.” In one post, Claudia wrote that her mom told her “masks are stupid” and suggested she became ill “all for the stupid Amy Coney Barrett thing.” In another message, Claudia called Trump an “idiot” and urged people not to take his advice on the virus.

“I’m furious. Wear your masks,” she wrote.

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