There appears to be an emerging outbreak of coronavirus at the White House, leaving officials grappling with how to contain it as President Trump continues to advocate for a return to normalcy, according to several weekend reports.
The situation at the White House is one that employers all around the country will face as parts of the economy begin to open up and employees are asked to return to work, often in environments where they spend extended periods of time indoors, in close proximity to one another. Here’s what has happened so far, and what the Trump administration is doing in response.
Two aides have tested positive and a third person is awaiting more test results
The New York Times reported Sunday that at least two aides have tested positive for coronavirus, including Katie Miller, a press aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and one of President Trump’s personal valets. A third person, Gen. Joseph Lengyel, tested positive but subsequently tested negative, and is awaiting more results, according to CNN. Lengyel was scheduled to attend a meeting with Trump and other military leaders on Saturday, but was not present.
Several officials are self-isolating
Three members of the White House coronavirus task force are self-isolating after they came into contact with an infected White House staffer, according to the Times, including CDC director Robert Redfield, FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn, and Anthony Fauci. Fauci said he had a “low-risk" exposure and would go into a “modified quarantine,” meaning he would mostly work at home but indicated he may at times visit his office at the National Institutes of Health, where employees are working remotely, according to CNN.
The Times reported Miller had been present at the coronavirus task force briefings.
In addition, Miller’s husband, senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller, is staying away from the White House following his wife’s diagnosis, the Washington Post reported Friday.
After initial reports that Mike Pence would self-isolate following the positive test result from his staffer, a spokesperson told reporters Pence had received negative test results several times and would continue to work as normal.
Protocols at the White House have been strengthened
The White House is requiring everyone to wear masks when entering the West Wing, according to the Associated Press. The New York Times also reported that several top White House staffers closest to President Trump are being tested for coronavirus daily, more lower-level staffers are being asked to work from home, and some members of the Secret Service are wearing masks to work. Some areas of the White House and an adjacent office building are also receiving extra cleaning, according to CNN.
But, as White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett noted on “Face the Nation” over the weekend, the White House is a “small crowded place.”
“I think I’d be a lot safer if I was sitting at home than I would be going to the West Wing, but you know, it’s a time when people have to step up and serve their country,” he said.