Faculty members who were in the White House to watch President Trump announce the appointment of Barrett, a Notre Dame professor, received saliva-based tests earlier this week, none of which reportedly tested positive at the time were.
Trump and administration officials have been criticized by public health experts for holding the ceremony in the White House rose garden, where guests were sitting close together and most were not wearing masks. Trump announced early Friday that he and his wife Melania had tested positive.
Several other attendees at the Barrett event have also had positive results, including former White House Advisor Kellyanne Conway, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Senator Thom Tillis (RN.C.).
Like Jenkins, several other Notre Dame attendees did not wear masks at the White House ceremony, according to the person familiar with the event.
Some Notre Dame professors expressed dismay on Friday that so many faculty members had attended an event that disregarded public health protocols and was concerned about the school’s handling of the situation.
“There is right to be a concern that the group that went to Washington and came back posed some risk to the campus and the South Bend community,” said Mark McKenna, professor in the law school.
“I think there was a lot of disappointment that people on our campus went to an event that didn’t meet the rules that we set up here,” he said.
McKenna praised the Dean of Law School, G. Marcus Cole, for wearing a mask to the White House event and then quarantining it. However, the law school did not make it clear what the quarantine protocol was like for other participants.
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 over the summer and has since recovered, had a negative coronavirus test Friday morning, the Washington Post reported. Her husband, Jesse, also tested positive in August, according to people familiar with the situation.
Prior to his diagnosis, Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, criticized the fact that he did not wear a mask and shook hands with other guests at the White House event and urged some students to demand his resignation.
In a message to the student body, faculty and staff earlier this week, Jenkins said he regretted what he called “a mistake of judgment”.
Eileen Hunt Botting, a political science professor who has taught at Notre Dame since 2001, said she had never seen anything like the reaction from students and faculty this week.
Botting described the growing concern on campus about the virus that fall when some students fell ill. She said concerns peaked for Barrett this week after the White House event.
“The fact that Father Jenkins went to the White House for this event when he didn’t have to, choosing not to wear a mask at the crowded Rose Garden ceremony, was the height of our concern that he was preaching one thing and doing another “Said Botting, who added that Jenkins’ actions” suggest that he believes 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 fail in that responsibility,” she said.
Richard Williams, professor of sociology, described the attendance of university staff at the White House event as “ruthless and irresponsible”.
Williams said those in attendance should continue to follow campus protocol to avoid infection in Washington. “It was a terrible example and maybe 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 “done things a student could be expelled for.”
In May of 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 being tested for the virus.
However, a week into the semester began, face-to-face tuition was suspended and gatherings were subjected to several restrictions following an outbreak that infected 147 people. After a two-week break, classes were gradually resumed.
All Notre Dame staff and students on campus are required to wear masks, stay away from each other, and perform a daily health check-up. This is evident from the university’s guidelines that meetings must be limited to 10 people.