O’Brien contracted the virus while on a short vacation with his family; his college-age daughter had become ill first. He tested positive for the virus on July 23, and the news, which caught some National Security Council aides by surprise, broke three and a half days later, although NSC staffers who interacted with O’Brien did get tested.

In March, O’Brien and his deputy Matthew Pottinger took steps to prevent a potential outbreak within the NSC by dividing the council’s front-office support staff in half and running each half from different offices. A few months ago, Pottinger returned with his front-office staff to the NSC suite in the West Wing, but staff members practice social distancing and mask-wearing, according to the official.

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