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Jenkins releases statement regarding actions at Coney Barrett’s nomination

| Monday, September 28, 2020

University President Fr. John Jenkins released an apology statement in an email to the Notre Dame community Monday for his actions which appeared to violate University health safety protocols Saturday at the White House, during the nomination ceremony of Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett.

A video which circulated on social media showed Jenkins in the Rose Garden not wearing a mask and shaking hands with a number of individuals.

Courtesy of WSBT
University President Fr. John Jenkins maskless at the White House Rose Garden during Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination.

Jenkins said in the email once he arrived at the White House, a medical professional obtained a nasal swab for a rapid COVID-19 test from him in an exam room.

“I was then directed to a room with others, all fully masked, until we were notified that we had all tested negative and were told that it was safe to remove our masks,” Jenkins said.

Rapid antigen tests are not fully accurate, however — as many as 50% of rapid tests can produce a false negative result for COVID-19.

Jenkins said he was seated with other attendees in the Rose Garden who had also undergone the same testing procedures. Marcus Cole, dean of the Notre Dame Law School, was seated next to Jenkins and appeared to be wearing a mask.

Vice president for public affairs and communications Paul Browne previously said in a statement every guest was tested by nasal swab prior to entering the ceremony.

However, according to a Saturday report from CNN, “Two of Barrett’s colleagues at Notre Dame, who attended the Rose Garden event and were seated toward the front of the audience, said they were not tested for the virus by the White House.”

Jenkins apologized for not wearing a mask and shaking hands with others in the Rose Garden.

“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. “I especially regret my mistake in light of the sacrifices made on a daily basis by many, particularly our students, in adjusting their lives to observe our health protocols.”

Jenkins said he consulted the Notre Dame Wellness Center after returning to campus and was advised to monitor his health for any COVID-19 symptoms.

“In an abundance of caution, I have decided also to quarantine in accordance with University protocols,” Jenkins said.

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