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World News

Trump, Pence to keep distance after president tests positive for coronavirus: official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will work from separate residences, a senior White House official told Reuters on Friday, hours after the president announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

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The official, who declined to be identified, said their staffs would be kept separate to protect the vice president should he need to assume control if Trump’s condition were to worsen.

“The president is not incapacitated. He is actually working from the residence,” the official said. “What we have done out of an abundance of caution, we have separated the VP and the president ... we separated the staffs, in case something happens,” he added.

The vice president’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but his spokesman Devin O’Malley said on Twitter that early on Friday Pence had tested negative for the virus.

The Nov. 3 election is little more than four weeks away, with the Republican Trump trailing Democrat Joe Biden in national opinion polls.

“The real frustration is, it is October, we’ve got 31 days to go,” the official said, adding that Trump’s illness would force him to cancel travel plans, driving more attention to the debate on Wednesday pitting Pence against Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris.

If Trump, who has played down risks from the coronavirus, were to fall seriously ill, he could invoke the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, temporarily giving Pence the powers of acting president.

“We are not anywhere close to that,” the White House official stressed, noting that Pence received the same intelligence briefings as the president and would be fully capable of assuming control if needed.

The same separation protocol was put to the test when Pence press aide Katie Miller tested positive earlier this year, the official stressed.

Trump met Biden in their first debate on Tuesday. They have two more scheduled for Oct. 15 and Oct. 22.

Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Howard Goller

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