Notre Dame's President Tests Positive For Coronavirus After Attending White House Event

A photo of Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame University's president, from Friday Aug. 15, 2014. (Joe Raymond/AP)
A photo of Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame University's president, from Friday Aug. 15, 2014. (Joe Raymond/AP)

The University of Notre Dame’s president announced Friday he tested positive for the coronavirus less than a week after he attended a White House event without wearing a mask.

The Rev. John Jenkins sent an email to university students and staff saying he was tested after finding out a colleague with whom he has been in regular contact tested positive for COVID-19.

“My symptoms are mild and I will continue work from home,” Jenkins, 66, said in the message provided by a university spokesman.

Earlier this week, Jenkins apologized for not wearing a mask during Saturday’s Rose Garden ceremony for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee who is a Notre Dame graduate and law professor.

Trump also announced early Friday that he and the first lady, Melania Trump, tested positive for the virus.

Jenkins faced criticism from students after pictures surfaced online of him shaking hands and sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with people without masks at the ceremony.

“I regret my error of judgment in not wearing a mask during the ceremony and by shaking hands with a number of people in the Rose Garden,” Jenkins wrote in a Monday letter to students, faculty and staff. “I failed to lead by example, at a time when I’ve asked everyone else in the Notre Dame community to do so.”

Jenkins said Monday that he was in quarantine. His message Friday said he was “entering an extended period of isolation” as directed by university and local health officials.

Notre Dame, which has about 12,000 students, paused in-person classes Aug. 18 and moved them online amid a surge that saw as many as 89 new cases a day. In-person classes resumed weeks later after a sharp decrease in infections.

The university’s online coronavirus dashboard showed four new cases reported on Thursday, giving the school 770 total infections among students and staff members. Of that total, the school estimated 54 active cases.

Notre Dame’s football team suspended practice and postponed its scheduled Sept. 26 game at Wake Forest after 18 players tested positive for COVID-19. The fifth-ranked Irish resumed practice this week ahead of their Oct. 10 home game against Florida State.

Jenkins Joined Notre Dame's faculty in 1990 and has been the school's president since 2005.

More than 200 students signed a petition asking the student senate to call for Jenkins’ resignation for not wearing a mask at the White House. The senate on Thursday voted against the measure, with some members saying they regarded it as too extreme of a step, The Observer campus newspaper reported.



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