The faculty members — who were at the White House to see President Trump announce the nomination of Barrett, a Notre Dame professor — received saliva-based tests earlier in the week and none tested positive at the time, according to the person.
Trump and administration officials were criticized by public health experts about their staging of the ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, where guests sat closely together and most did not wear masks. Trump announced early Friday that he and his wife, Melania, had tested positive.
Several other attendees at the Barrett event have also tested positive, including former White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).
University president Rev. John I. Jenkins, who attended the White House event, said earlier Friday that he had tested positive for the virus and was in quarantine. It was not immediately clear when Jenkins was infected. He said he was tested after a colleague with whom he had been in contact tested positive.
Like Jenkins, several others attendees from Notre Dame at the White House ceremony did not wear masks, according to the person familiar with the event.
Some Notre Dame professors expressed dismay Friday that so many faculty members had attended an event that did not adhere to public health protocols and concern about the school’s handling of the situation.
“There is legitimately some worry that the group that went to Washington and came back has brought some risk to the campus and to the South Bend community,” said Mark McKenna, a professor at the law school.
“I think there has been a lot of disappointment that people on our campus went to and participated in an event that didn’t abide by the rules we have established here,” he said.
McKenna praised the law school’s dean, G. Marcus Cole, for wearing a mask at the White House event and quarantining afterward. But, he said, the law school had not made clear what the quarantine protocol was for others who had attended.
Paul Browne, the university’s vice president for public affairs and communications, did not respond to a request for comment on the concerns.
Barrett, who had the virus during the summer and has since recovered, had a negative coronavirus test Friday morning, as The Washington Post has reported. Her husband, Jesse, also tested positive in August, according to people familiar with the situation.
Before his diagnosis, Jenkins, the Notre Dame president, fielded criticism for not wearing a mask at the White House event and for shaking hands with other guests, spurring some students to call for his resignation.
In a message earlier this week to the student body, faculty and staff, Jenkins said he regretted what he called “an error of judgment.”
Eileen Hunt Botting, a professor of political science who has taught at Notre Dame since 2001, said she had never experienced anything like the reaction this week from students and faculty.
Botting described growing concern on campus about the virus this fall as some students became sick. She said the concern peaked this week following the White House event for Barrett.
“The fact that Father Jenkins went to the White House for this event when he didn’t have to, chose not to wear a mask in the crowded Rose Garden ceremony was the culmination of our concerns that he has been preaching one thing and doing another,” said Botting, who added that Jenkins’s actions “suggest he thinks he is above the rules.”
“We believe it is our responsibility to put the dignity and sanctity of life first and we at Notre Dame are failing that responsibility,” she said.
Richard Williams, a professor of sociology, called the participation of university personnel in the White House event “reckless and irresponsible.”
Williams said those who attended should have continued following campus protocol for avoiding infections while in Washington. “It was a terrible example and perhaps a dangerous example,” he said.
Williams, who also praised Cole for wearing a mask throughout the Rose Garden event, said Jenkins and others appeared to have been “doing things that a student could get expelled for.”
In May this year, Notre Dame became one of the first colleges to announce that students would return to campus despite the ongoing pandemic. Thousands of students returned in early August after having been tested for the virus.
A week into the semester, however, in-person instruction was suspended and several restrictions were placed on gatherings following an outbreak that infected 147 people. Classes gradually resumed after a two-week hiatus.
All Notre Dame staff and students on campus are required to wear masks, remain distanced from one another and complete a daily health check, according to university guidance, which states that gatherings must be limited to 10 people.