Nov 26, 2020 - Politics & Policy

USAID chief tests positive for coronavirus

A plane sits on an airport tarmac with relief supplies.
An Air Force cargo jet delivers USAID supplies to Russia earlier this year. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of senior administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

  • "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," spokesperson Pooja Jhunjhunwala said in a statement issued after being contacted by Axios.

Details: Barsa was planning to travel to Honduras this weekend after the country was ravaged by recent hurricanes. Administration officials say they expect that trip is now off.

  • Barsa's positive test results comes shortly after Donald Trump Jr. and senior White House aide Andrew Giuliani, among several others close to the president, also contracted the virus.

The backdrop: Barsa has come under fire in recent weeks after Axios obtained leaked audio with him making remarks some employees took as threatening about their future work prospects.

USAID is an independent government agency that works closely with the State Department. It is tasked with leading the government's international development and disaster assistance efforts.

This story has been updated with quotes from the USAID spokesperson, background about the agency and a restatement of Barsa's comments to his employees.

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