White House staffers have reportedly been urged to stay home and not come to work if they exhibit any symptoms of Covid-19, days after President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and numerous other close associates were tested positive for the disease with Trump being hospitalized at the Walter Reed Medical Center.
According to an internal White House email obtained by New York Magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi on Sunday night, White House staffers who show any symptoms have also been directed to “immediately contact your primary care provider” and “inform their supervisors.”
The guidance from the White House comes almost three days after the president first announced that he and his wife have been infected.
The White House has been criticized for its lax policies on mask-wearing and social distancing, with Trump reportedly at times ordering staff members wearing masks in meetings to “get that thing off.”
Despite the White House claiming that it has initiated a “full contact tracing” program that is “consistent with CDC guidelines ” following Trump’s positive test on Thursday, CNN reported that there was little clarity on the issue. The report noted that the tracing efforts are mostly concentrated on White House staffers who had interacted with the president, first lady and Trump’s adviser Hope Hicks and does not include others who attended personal meetings or crowded events at the White House. On Friday, the National Security Council’s staff were asked to follow tighter rules including being required to wear masks in all White House common areas and any place social distancing was not possible. However other White House staffers told the Associated Press that mask-wearing would remain a “personal choice” everyone else. Members of the Trump administration have argued that regular testing of staffers negated the need to enforce mask-wearing in the White House. However, the Abbott Laboratories test used to examine staff and others who came in contact with the president is not always accurate when used to test those who are not showing any symptoms.
Even as the pandemic has raged on in the United States, barely anyone working in the busy West Wing of the White House wore masks and people who did so were ridiculed by colleagues for being alarmist, the New York Times reported. Trump reportedly viewed masks as a sign of weakness.
Kevin Hassett, who previously served as a senior economic advisor to Trump, told CNN that when he was working at the White House he “got a little bit of a flak for saying, ‘Hey, I understand the risks. When there’s Covid, it’s incredibly contagious, and I’d be safer if I just stayed in my basement, but I’m going to work every day because it’s my duty to serve the country,’” He added that the West Wing is a cramped place and if the virus is “anywhere in the West Wing then it could be that lots of people have it and people understand that.”
A White House Long In Denial Confronts Reality (New York Times)
Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus