The University of Notre Dame’s president is facing heat for not wearing a mask and then shaking hands with multiple people at a White House ceremony over the weekend — an apparent violation of the safety protocols he has asked students to follow.
The Rev. John I. Jenkins was one of a number of guests to go maskless at the ceremony nominating Amy Coney Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor, to the Supreme Court. After photos of the event circulated online, many critics questioned why he seemed to be disregarding social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines after emphasizing the importance of those same precautions in his messages to students.
Mark Fox, a local health official who helped develop Notre Dame’s reopening plan, told the South Bend Tribune in Indiana that he would have preferred to see Jenkins send a “very strong message” to White House officials and the viewing public by wearing a mask.
In a message to the campus community obtained by WSBT on Monday, Jenkins said that he had “failed to lead by example” and regretted the 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.” He pledged to self-quarantine out of “an abundance of caution.”
Jenkins also said that he had removed his mask only after a rapid coronavirus test performed on the White House grounds came back negative. During the ceremony, he was seated with others “who also had just been tested and received negative results,” he said.
Rapid antigen tests frequently produce false negatives and are not considered as accurate as other methods of testing. CNN has also raised questions about the safety protocols at the event, reporting Saturday that two of Barrett’s Notre Dame colleagues did not get tested before the ceremony.