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Billionaire Trump Donors Elizabeth, Richard Uihlein Have Virus

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 11/12/2020 Jennifer Jacobs and Anders Melin
a person posing for the camera: Liz Uihlein at the White House for a state dinner in 2019. © Photographer: Paul Morigi/Getty Images Liz Uihlein at the White House for a state dinner in 2019.

(Bloomberg) -- Elizabeth and Richard Uihlein, the billionaire shipping magnates who are among President Donald Trump’s biggest donors, have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Elizabeth Uihlein, the chief executive officer of shipping-supply company Uline Inc., announced her illness in a memo sent to her roughly 7,000 employees on Wednesday afternoon. Richard Uihlein is the company’s chairman.

“After all these long months, I thought we’d never get it,” she wrote. “Well, Trump go[t] it.....If we had not been around people with COVID, we would not have been tested.”

In a statement, Uline said the company doesn’t disclose health information about specific employees, citing health privacy law.

“Uline has instituted numerous changes to normal operating policies to respond to COVID-19 with health and safety in mind,” the Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin-based company said. “As we are made aware of positive cases among Uline personnel, we continue to promptly notify others who may be exposed to the virus, so the proper protocols can be quickly put into place.”

a person posing for the camera: Liz Uihlein at the White House for a state dinner in 2019. © Photographer: Paul Morigi/Getty Images Liz Uihlein at the White House for a state dinner in 2019.

Elizabeth Uihlein said in a statement that she was exposed to the virus through a personal friend and was subsequently tested.

A number of other Trump loyalists tested positive after attending a Nov. 3 election party at the White House, where guests mingled in close quarters largely without masks. Elizabeth Uihlein said neither she nor her husband were at that event. It’s not clear whether those who attended contracted the virus at the White House.

Read more: Trump Loyalists Hit With New Wave of Virus After Election Party

The Uihleins, who are worth around $4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, are outspoken Republicans and have donated tens of millions of dollars to Trump and conservative causes in recent years.

Elizabeth Uihlein has been critical of government restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. In March, she sent an email to dozens of Illinois lawmakers saying that “while you may think that government-enforced closing of events, schools” help prevent the virus, it also contributes to “unnecessary panic and fear in the American people.”

The following month, she urged Uline employees to support a petition for the recall of Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, saying he was violating their constitutional right to work during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I want to see America get back to work,” Uihlein said in a statement to Bloomberg News at the time.

Most of Uline’s employees were moved to remote work in the spring but called back to their offices this summer, according to one current and one former employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their jobs and professional contacts.

In July, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration received a complaint about Uline holding “lunch-and-learns”-- meetings where sometimes hundreds of employees would dine together in spaces not outfitted to keep six-foot distancing -- and not permitting remote work even for those capable of doing so. The complaint also said that symptomatic employees were allowed to continue to work without face coverings while awaiting test results.

In 2016, Trump named Elizabeth Uihlein to an advisory council designed to “get the American economy back on track.” In October 2019, Vice President Mike Pence visited Uline’s warehouse in Wisconsin, one of the stops he made at businesses during a tour promoting the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. The Uihleins have also visited the White House during Trump’s tenure.

The Uihleins’ infections were reported earlier by Patch.com.

(Updates with Elizabeth Uihlein statement in sixth paragraph.)

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