WASHINGTON (RNS) — Ben Carson, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development and a Seventh-day Adventist, has tested positive for COVID-19.
News that Carson, who belongs to a faith tradition that stresses health, has tested positive for the virus was revealed by a HUD spokesperson on Monday (Nov. 9). The diagnosis comes less than a week after Carson attended an election-night party at the White House, where Mark Meadows, President Trump’s chief of staff, also made an appearance and later tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
“Secretary Carson has tested positive for the coronavirus,” Coalter Baker, Carson’s chief of staff, reportedly told ABC News in a statement. “He is in good spirits and feels fortunate to have access to effective therapeutics which aid and markedly speed his recovery.”
Carson, a successful brain surgeon, reportedly prayed before every surgery he performed and has spoken in the past about the intersection of health and his faith: In 1999, Carson responded to a question from Religion News Service about bad medical outcomes by saying “God gets all the credit for all the success and he gets responsibility for the things that aren’t successful.”
He has also spoken about his connection to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which has long framed health as a core spiritual concern. While the church does not mandate specific health practices, it encourages members to exercise, eat a vegetarian diet with supplements, and abstain from alcohol, tobacco and drugs. The church’s website says staying healthy is a way to model a positive example of “God’s love and care,” explaining, “We believe God calls us to care for our bodies, treating them with the respect a divine creation deserves.”
Carson is known to abstain from alcohol and sticks to a mostly vegetarian diet. He has also advocated for mask-wearing during the pandemic, telling ABC News 5 Cleveland in June that “if we all do it, it will make a dramatic difference.”
However, he has reportedly been spotted attending indoor events this year without wearing a mask. It is unclear if he wore one while attending the White House election party, where all were tested beforehand, but many — including Meadows — did not wear face coverings.
G. Alexander Bryant, the North American president of the Seventh-day Adventists, expressed concerns about the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus to RNS in October, saying it “impacts all of our churches, which is about 6,000 congregations, and all of our schools and all of our offices.”
This piece has been updated to include Carson’s remarks on his faith from an archival RNS interview.