White House Requires Officials to Wear Masks In West Wing

May 11, 2020 by Dan McCue
Outside the West Wing of the White House. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration on Monday told all employees working in the White House that they will now be required to wear masks whenever they are in the West Wing.

The internal memo, which was distributed to staff members through the White House management office, says “As an additional layer of protection, we are requiring everyone who enters the West Wing to wear a mask or face covering.”

However the mandate is not expected to apply to either President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence.

Infections in the White House stir concerns about how to keep workplaces safe as the economy reopens. Officials are under pressure to restart the economy, but many states are moving too quickly, researchers say.

The new policy was put in place after two aides working near the president — a military valet and Katie Miller, the vice president’s spokeswoman — tested positive for the virus last week.

A personal assistant to Ivanka Trump has also tested positive for coronavirus.

The recent developments have caused some White House officials to openly express concern about working at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

“It is scary to go to work,” Kevin Hassett, a top economic adviser to the president, said on the CBS program “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

For weeks, both the president and vice president have downplayed the importance of wearing masks, appearing several times in meetings and in public without them.

In addition to the new mask rules, the White House made some other changes Monday, including putting up signage encouraging social distancing at entryways and asking aides if they are displaying symptoms during routine temperature checks.

The spread of the virus in the White House came as the number of virus deaths in the United States surpassed 80,000, and as the Trump administration has sought to convince the public that it is time to move on and get back to work.

“We have to get our country open again,” Trump said repeatedly last week.

That push was undercut over the weekend by the announcement that the top officials leading the White House response to the pandemic are also now quarantining themselves.

Among those who will be sequestered for two weeks is Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation’s leading infectious disease expert. So will Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the C.D.C., and Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

All three doctors are scheduled to testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday and arrangements have been made for them to do so remotely.

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the Republican chair of the committee, will also be participating remotely after one of his staff members tested positive for the virus. 

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