U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia's wife tested positive for COVID-19 just hours after the secretary's visit to JWF Industries in Johnstown on Tuesday.
Trish Scalia, 57, did not travel to Johnstown with her husband, and received word Tuesday afternoon that she had the virus, Deputy Press Secretary Sabin Sidney said, noting that the secretary's wife has "mild symptoms."
Scalia's most recent test was returned "negative" for the virus Tuesday evening – just hours after his Johnstown stop – but the secretary is now following health professionals' recommendations to quarantine at home as a precaution, Sidney said.
"He has experienced no symptoms," Sidney said. "For the time being, the secretary will work from home while continuing to carry out the mission of the department and the president's agenda."
The JWF event was held 17 days after the White House gathering – beyond the two-week point that the virus can incubate before symptoms appear – although Sabin said he was unable to say when Scalia's wife's latest tests were conducted.
Scalia has been a touring Pennsylvania on behalf of Trump with the state pinpointed as a potential decider for the Nov. 3 election.
Trump announced on Oct. 2 that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for COVID-19. He was treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
How Trump's administration has handled the virus has been a hot-button issue on the campaign trail. Scalia is a member of Trump's Coronavirus Task Force, which was assembled earlier in the year to coordinate efforts to minimize the spread of the virus.
During his Tuesday visit, Scalia addressed approximately 40 JWF workers, heralding their ability to keep fulfilling defense contract orders for the military's Ground Mobility Vehicle and other armored trucks during the pandemic.
The Labor secretary wore a mask while other officials spoke to the press at a podium. But he removed it other times, including during a posed photo alongside dozens of JWF officials and employees.
Surrounded by JWF executives Bill and John Polacek and rows of welders in light blue JWF masks, only Scalia and U.S. Rep John Joyce stood for the photo without face coverings.
It was one of at least two group photos – one before the event and another after – with Scalia later donning his mask for TV cameras while standing underneath a banner that read "Faith. Family. Country."
CEO Bill Polacek said he believes Scalia took the right precautions "overall" during the event and he credited the secretary's staff for their diligent preparations beforehand.
He said staff were "forthcoming" about taking precautions during the event and asked him to outline the steps JWF was taking. In the wake of the Rose Garden event, Department of Labor officials also noted that Scalia had been tested and had negative results since, Polacek said.
"We feel good in that we're glad he tested negative," Polacek said of Scalia's follow-up test results Tuesday. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife and, hopefully, no one else contracts the virus."
JWF Defense employees all wore personalized JWF masks during the duration of the visit. Bill Polacek did the same, even while presenting one of the cloth blue masks to Scalia as a gift.
On Wednesday, Polacek said he's proud his employees have embraced the safety steps outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from the outset of the pandemic – not just at work but in public situations.
JWF Industries' more than 330 workers in Johnstown haven't had a single positive test – despite despite a few precautionary quarantines when others in their friend and family circles have cases – since February, he said.
"The last thing we want is an issue that could prevent us from shipping armor to the military," Polacek said.
Tuesday's scenario reinforced why it's so important, Polacek added.
"Because you never know who could have it," he said, saying taking precautions to keep work moving is a matter of being a good community steward.
"Hopefully, when people see our employees in the community wearing masks and following the guidelines, we can encourage others to do the same," he said.
"We're all in this together," Polacek said. "Staying six feet apart and wearing a mask, that's not asking too much."