“We understand that this sort of situation can create uncertainty,” the school principal, John A. Lee, wrote in the email to parents. “However we have been assured at this point that the risk of exposure for other individuals at Trinity School who were not identified as close contacts is no greater than the risk of getting the virus in the general community.”
A White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive health matters said Barrett’s children have tested negative, never showed symptoms and were kept out of school after revelations that some who attended the White House ceremonies had tested positive. The official did not specify how long the children stayed home but said the school approved their return to the classroom.
Emails from the school principal about the students and teacher, which were obtained by The Washington Post, did not provide further information about the infections, except to note that others at the school who were in close contact with those who have tested positive have been notified and asked to quarantine for an unspecified period. The White House official said Barrett’s children were not among those alerted because of close contact.
The teacher, Tom Dits, who was identified in the principal’s email, declined to comment Friday.
The New York Times first reported the positive tests at Trinity School.
A spokesman for the school, Jon Balsbaugh, declined to discuss health information about specific individuals. In an email, Balsbaugh said the school has consulted with local health officials and established protocols that include daily temperature checks and requiring masks when six feet of social distance cannot be maintained. He said that contact tracing and quarantine rules are in place and that all students have the option of distance learning.
“The health and safety of our students, their families, and our faculty and staff, is of utmost concern, as is protecting the privacy and health information of our school community,” Balsbaugh said.
White House spokesman Judd Deere took issue with this article, saying, “The Barrett children should be off limits. Period.”
He added that “the White House Medical Unit conducted contact tracing consistent with CDC guidelines and appropriate recommendations were made.”
Trump tested positive for the virus five days after the Rose Garden ceremony. CDC guidelines recommend contact tracing for those who had been exposed to an infected person in the 48 hours leading up to a positive test.
Some parents at the school have expressed concern since the White House event, followed by the disclosure that Barrett and her husband tested positive for the virus over the summer.
Several parents of Trinity students and people affiliated with Notre Dame, where Barrett teaches law, attended the Rose Garden event. Among them was the Rev. John I. Jenkins, the university president, who announced Monday that he had contracted the disease.
Jenkins, the Barrett family and many others at the event, which included outdoor and indoor receptions, did not wear masks. Several in attendance said that they were tested by the White House before entering the event. Subsequently, a dozen or so Notre Dame officials and faculty who attended received nasal swab tests in South Bend and the results were all negative.
At least 10 people besides Trump who were at the event have tested positive, including first lady Melania Trump, former White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R) and Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).
“We had a superspreader event in the White House, and it was a situation where people were crowded together and not wearing masks,” Anthony S. Fauci, the top infectious-disease expert in the U.S., told CBS News Radio on Friday.
Mark Fox, a physician and local health official in South Bend who also is associate dean of the Indiana University School of Medicine, said that people who attended the event should, in most cases, go into quarantine if they had close extended contact with an infected individual. If they had no close contact or recently had the disease, they could resume activities.
Fox acknowledged that the standard is to trace back 48 hours from a confirmed test and identify who had close contact with the infected person. But, he added, “it seems likely to me that someone at that event was infectious and transmitting the virus,” so further investigation may be warranted.
Fox reviewed published photos of the Barrett children near President Trump at the White House event, and said it appeared that some may have been in close contact. Unless they were known to be immune from the disease, he said it might be advisable for them to quarantine. The White House official said the Barrett children were not in close contact with anyone who tested positive. But the photos show the children standing or sitting near the president, Melania Trump and others who have tested positive.