John Barsa, the acting head of the US Agency for International Development, has tested positive for coronavirus, CNN has learned.
“We can confirm that on November 25, Acting Deputy Administrator John Barsa tested positive for COVID-19 after receiving a rapid diagnostic test,” acting USAID spokesperson Pooja Jhunjhunwala said in a statement to CNN on Wednesday.
“The Acting Deputy Administrator has been isolating since he began exhibiting symptoms late Monday, November 23, and will continue to until a retest is conclusive.”
Barsa, a Trump political appointee, has been regularly going to the office and holding meetings, including with officials from the White House, without a mask, a source familiar with the situation told CNN.
The source also said the Biden transition team has been informed about Barsa’s diagnosis, and that Barsa had not met with them.
Jhunjhunwala said that “since the beginning of the pandemic, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has prioritized the health and safety of our employees, and taken seriously the guidelines for safety protocols and physical distancing issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
A growing number of lawmakers from both parties and chambers of Congress have also announced they’ve tested positive.
Rep. Rick Allen, a Republican from Georgia, and Rep. Susie Lee, a Democrat from Nevada, announced separately on Wednesday that they had contracted the virus.
Their announcements came just days after two other lawmakers — Reps. Bryan Steil, a Republican from Wisconsin, and Joe Courtney, a Democrat from Connecticut — said they had been diagnosed with the virus.
As of Wednesday evening, there were at least 12.7 million cases of Covid-19 in the US and more than 261,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
The average number of new daily cases across a week in the US was 174,225 on Tuesday — the highest on record, and more than 2 1/2 times greater than the previous peak in late July.
As a result, the White House coronavirus task force is recommending a significant increase in testing as well as additional, accelerated mitigation measures in its weekly reports to states.
Multiple state reports dated November 22 and obtained by CNN show a critical assessment from the task force at a time when it says Americans must undertake “significant behavior change,” urging state and local officials to take proactive steps toward those ends.