The White House is dramatically escalating its measures to keep the president and vice president safe from the coronavirus after two aides tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week.
On Monday, the White House issued a memo that directs West Wing staffers to wear masks at all times in the building, except at their own desks. Additional procedures include daily testing for the majority of West Wing staff and additional teleworking depending on the office, according to two senior administration officials.
Maintaining 6 feet from others is virtually impossible in the West Wing, with its cramped hallways and stairwells, low ceilings and cubicles, so aides now must keep masks with them at all times.
One White House official said staffers are being more cautious and trying to do as many meetings as possible by phone, three days after Vice President Mike Pence’s top spokesperson tested positive for the coronavirus and the vice president himself spent the weekend at home. Pence’s only public event on Monday was a teleconference with governors, and as of now he has no travel publicly scheduled for this week.
White House aides are deeply aware the president’s message of urging states to reopen their economies does not mesh with the optics of the virus spreading unchecked throughout the West Wing. Even beyond the threat the virus could pose to the health of both Trump and Pence, aides recognize that new infections inside the White House will only mar the president’s cheerleading on the economic front and his efforts to revive the national mood ahead of the November election.
Judd Deere, deputy White House press secretary said, “The White House has been operating under maximum telework since the end of March. Appropriate social distancing is occurring. Wearing a face covering is in accordance with CDC guidelines which is voluntary”.