U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has tested positive for coronavirus, a department spokesman confirmed to The Washington Post on Wednesday.

The diagnosis came less than a week after Bernhardt helped light the National Menorah on Dec. 10 across from the White House in Washington, D.C.

This year’s menorah-lighting, the 42nd, included fewer guests than usual due to coronavirus restrictions with social distancing in place; typically, it draws thousands. It is annually organized by American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad).

Often, the lighting of the menorah is done by a Jewish member of the current administration, typically a member of the president’s Cabinet.

Bernhardt, who is not Jewish, lit the shamash (“helper candle”) on the giant menorah in a cherry-picker alongside Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), his son, Rabbi Menachem Shemtov and his father, Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, chairman of the board of Agudas Chasidei Chabad and director of the Lubavitcher Center in Philadelphia.

Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who emceed the ceremony and was also on stage with Bernhardt when the secretary gave short remarks prior to the lighting, told JNS on Friday that he, his son and his father were tested on Thursday as soon as they heard of the diagnosis. Their results came back negative, he said, and they were told there was no need to quarantine.


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