The latest developments pose an essential question: If people around Trump are not protected from the virus in the most highly secured workplace in the country, how can it be safe for anyone else to go back to work?
But most Americans — whom Trump hopes will contribute to opening the economy that is so crucial for his reelection campaign — will not have access to the aggressive repeated testing and contact tracing now in place in the White House. Trump has argued that testing should primarily be up to governors to sort out. He has also repeatedly downplayed the importance of testing even though experts say that it is critical to establishing the penetration of the virus and to preventing new waves of infection as normal life begins to resume.
However, Trump and so-far-unidentified senior administration officials are expected to hold a press briefing on testing on Monday afternoon.
The administration sent out its top economic officials to Sunday talk shows to address cataclysmic unemployment data — instead of their public health experts. That left economic aides like Larry Kudlow and Kevin Hassett fielding questions about testing and the safety of workplaces, issues on which they have no scientific expertise.
Health officials self-quarantine
But the decision of the President and other senior officials not to follow suit after coming into contact with colleagues who are infected with Covid-19 offers a poor example to other Americans. Trump has also not appeared in public wearing a face mask. Trump is worried that wearing a mask could compromise his reopening message.
Despite his exposure to Miller, Pence has decided not to enter self-quarantine, according to his spokesperson Devin O’Malley, who said that the vice president would follow medical advice and has “tested negative every single day and plans to be at the White House tomorrow.”
Given the cramped nature of the West Wing, which makes proper social distancing all but impossible, the fear is that more cases of Covid-19 will emerge.
This reality potentially raises national security concerns were both Trump and Pence to become infected. The White House outbreak also highlights questions about how carefully the White House has followed its own advice on social distancing and the use of face masks to prevent the spread of the virus. On Saturday, the President met at the White House with senior military officials. No one was wearing a mask in the photo opportunity — though Secret Service agents who were off camera did take the precaution.
The CDC recommends that citizens wear masks in public settings where it is hard to practice social distancing, though the advice is not mandatory.
“I knew, when I was going back in, that I would be taking risks, that I would be safer sitting at home at my house than going into a West Wing that, even with all the testing in the world and the best medical team on Earth, is a relatively cramped place,” Hassett said. On CBS “Face the Nation,” Hassett admitted: “It is scary to go to work.
Hassett compromised the clarity of the administration’s coronavirus message when he truthfully told CNN’s Jake Tapper that there is “no downside” to more testing, and made the case that the administration is trying to ramp it up.
Trump repeatedly says that the US has done more testing than any other nation, but the US doesn’t lead the pack when it comes to testing per capita, the more significant metric.
But last Tuesday, Trump said: “I don’t think you need that kind of testing or that much testing, but some people disagree with me and some people agree with me.” Trump greeted news of Miller’s diagnosis after previous negative tests by saying it proved “the whole concept of tests are not necessarily great.” On May 6, McEnany said it was a “myth” that every American should be tested. “If we tested every single American in this country at this moment, we’d have to retest them an hour later, and then an hour later after that,” she said.
Hassett revealed on “State of the Union” that everyone who wants to get in to see Trump must first test negative for coronavirus — meaning that the White House has a far more stringent protocol than regular Americans.
It is proper that the President — given his responsibilities as an elected head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces — should get the best medical care that is available.
White House in no rush for new stimulus package
“Will some people be affected badly? Yes,” Trump said during a visit to Arizona last week. “But we have to get our country open, and we have to get it open soon.”
Also on Sunday, the White House sent new signals that it is in no rush to conclude another massive economic stimulus deal, despite some states warning their fiscal positions are dire.
Hassett said on “State of the Union” that it was right to pause to assess the need and the pace of the recovery as states begin to open.
“Given that the $9 trillion of aid that passed in the last three phases, given that that is still out there, and there’s still a bunch of it that’s going to be delivered over the next month, we think that we have a little moment, the luxury of a moment, to learn about what’s going on,” he said.