In a move to stymie the spread of COVID-19 within the presidential compound, a new White House policy has directed staffers to wear masks while working in the West Wing except for when they’re at their desks. The new directive does not apply to President Trump. At least two aides tested positive for the virus in the past week.
The White House Management Office sent a memo on Monday directing staff to wear face masks or facial coverings while moving throughout the West Wing, ABC News first reported.
Why it matters: The move underscores fears of the coronavirus spreading within the White House, after at least two aides — President Trump’s valet and Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller — tested positive last week.
- Unlike top health officials Anthony Fauci, CDC director Robert Redfield and FDA commissioner Stephan Hahn, Pence and Trump have declined to fully self-isolate after possible exposure to Miller.
The big picture: The move comes as Trump is spearheading a push for states to begin reopening their economies. Requirements for face masks in public spaces have been a point of contention.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that all Americans wear masks in public spaces, but not all states have mandated them in their orders lifting coronavirus restrictions.
The state of play: Members of the White House already regularly tested for the coronavirus using Abbott Labs’ rapid test. The White House Management Office said in its memo that the new requirement for masks is “an additional layer of protection.”
- Staffers who are sitting at their desk and are socially distanced will be allowed to remove their mask, according to the memo.
- The office added: “Unless you absolutely need to conduct in-person business in the West Wing, we respectfully ask you to avoid unnecessary visits.”
- Visitors who do not have their own masks will be provided with one from the White House clinic.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.