A Penobscot County commissioner was told he may have had contact with someone with the coronavirus at a Hermon rally last week headlined by Vice President Mike Pence before news broke that members of the vice president’s staff had tested positive.
Andre Cushing, a former Republican state senator from Hampden, said he was contacted early Wednesday morning by White House medical staff two days after Pence’s visit. He learned that his test came back negative on Thursday. Five Pence staffers, including chief of staff Marc Short and adviser Martin Obst, were reported to have tested positive for the virus on Saturday evening. The vice president and his wife have both tested negative.
It was not clear if Mainers have been tested after attending last week’s rally, where relatively few attendees wore masks beside campaign and event staff. News of the contact between Cushing and the contact tracers was first reported by the Portland Press Herald.
Cushing said he was told someone at the event had tested positive but was not told explicitly who it was or where he came into contact with them. As a politician who has helped other campaigns organize local events for years, he said he worked with the campaign to help plan elements of the event, seat people and verify special guests.
Those duties put him in contact with both Pence and campaign staff. Cushing said he worked in front and back of the stage and rode with staff from Dysart’s to the airport. He said he believed Obst was at the event but was not introduced to him.
By contrast, Carroll Conley, the executive director of the evangelical Christian Civic League of Maine who led an opening prayer at the event, said he was never in direct contact with Pence’s staff and that he also never went backstage. He sat in the front row of the rally after the prayer and stood behind the stage wearing a mask.
A spokesperson for former Gov. Paul LePage told the Press Herald that LePage, who also spoke at the rally, was not contacted and did not have contact with the vice president or his staff. Campaign staff for Dale Crafts, the Republican candidate in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District candidate who introduced Pence, did not return a request for comment.
Pence spokesperson Katie Miller said anyone at the rally and in contact with the sick individual was “notified in an expeditious manner” but did not say how many people that may have been or who the individual was, citing privacy reasons.
Cushing said he immediately took social distancing precautions when he learned he may have been sick, adding that he has a newborn grandson. He said he contacted the county’s human resources department on Wednesday to inform them that he was getting tested.
While he said there were “political overtones” to the conversation around the virus, he hoped people would “be respectful” of those who prefer masks and social distancing. Cushing helped park cars at President Donald Trump’s Sunday rally at a Levant orchard.