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White House staff must wear masks in the West Wing, except Trump

Tuesday, May 12th 2020 - 07:18 UTC
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The directive comes after an aide for Vice-President Mike Pence and a valet for President Trump fell ill. Mr Trump said he required the policy. The directive comes after an aide for Vice-President Mike Pence and a valet for President Trump fell ill. Mr Trump said he required the policy.

White House staff have been ordered to wear masks when entering the West Wing after two aides tested positive for coronavirus. The White House personnel office has said that staff must cover their faces at all times except when seated at their desks, socially distant from colleagues.

The directive comes after an aide for Vice-President Mike Pence and a valet for President Trump fell ill. Mr Trump said he required the policy.

Appearing without a mask in the Rose Garden for a press briefing on Monday, however, the president claimed he did not need to follow the directive because he kept “far away from everyone”, and played down the White House infections.

“We have hundreds of people a day pouring into the White House” each day, he said. “I think we're doing a good job containing it.”

Three members of the White House coronavirus task force went into self-isolation for two weeks after possible exposure to the illness. They include Dr Anthony Fauci, who has become the public face of the fight against the virus in the US.

Mr Pence's press secretary Katie Miller, the wife of Trump aide Stephen Miller, tested positive for the virus on Friday. Her diagnosis came after a valet for US President Donald Trump was also confirmed to have the illness.

Mr Trump shrugged of the White House spread, saying it was “basically one person” who had contracted the virus and that people who were in contact had since tested negative.

Mr Trump said more funds would be made available to increase testing in states.

The government is to provide US$ 11bn to states to meet testing goals this month. States were asked how many tests they hope to conduct in May, and will be given supplies to match the targets.

Senior White House officials who come into regular contact with Mr Trump are currently being tested daily for the coronavirus.

Pressed by journalists on when all Americans could expect to have access to testing, Mr Trump said: “If someone wants to be tested right now they will be able to be tested”. The claim is heavily disputed.

Donald Trump held his press conference to talk about the growing number of coronavirus tests available to Americans, but it was the impact of the pandemic on the White House itself that became the focus of attention.

At an event held in the Rose Garden last week, none of the attendees, including Vice-President Mike Pence, wore masks. Four days later, Pence - regularly at the president's side - was notably absent, his press secretary having tested positive for the virus days ago. Everyone in attendance, including presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, had masks, after a directive requiring them for all White House staff.

It was an order that applied to everyone - that is, except the president, who continued to decline the protection.

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