Indianz.Com > COVID-19 > Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt (Department of the Interior)
Posted: December 17, 2020

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt participates in the winter roundtable of the Western Caucus Foundation in Fort Worth, Texas, on December 5, 2020. Photo: U.S. Department of the Interior

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to news reports.

The Washington Post was the first to report the diagnosis on December 16, 2020. A spokesperson told the paper that Bernhardt “will continue to work on behalf of the American people while in quarantine.”

Bernhardt oversees the Department of the Interior, the federal agency with the most trust and treaty responsibilities in Indian Country. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is part of Interior, along with the Bureau of Indian Education and the newly-created Bureau of Trust Funds Administration, which has taken over most of the functions of the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians.

During the George W. Bush administration, Bernhardt initially served as a counselor to then-Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton. He later became Solicitor at the department, a position for which he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Bernhardt returned to Interior for the Trump era, first serving as Deputy Secretary under former Secretary Ryan Zinke. He was confirmed as Secretary in April 2019, following Zinke’s departure in December 2018.

Bernhardt’s COVID-19 diagnosis, incidentally, comes just a week after Zinke returned to Interior headquarters in Washington, D.C., for the unveiling of his official portrait, which will hang in the Secretary’s office at the department. Bernhardt attended the event.

While in Washington, Zinke and his wife also attended an event at the White House, according to a post on his wife’s social media.

Like the rest of the Donald Trump administration, Bernhardt is set to depart in the coming weeks. Democratic President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated on January 20, 2021.

Biden has not yet announced his pick for Secretary of the Interior.

Additional Coverage

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt tests positive for coronavirus (The Washington Post December 16, 2020)

Interior Secretary Bernhardt tests positive for COVID-19 (E&E News December 16, 2020)

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt tests positive for Covid-19 (CNN December 17, 2020)

Interior chief latest official to test positive for virus (The Associated Press December 17, 2020)

Top Trump officials sidelined after exposure to coronavirus (CBS News December 17, 2020)

Join the Conversation