White House Coronavirus Outbreak Undercuts Trump’s Safe Reopening Message

Photo: Getty Images

We’re committed to keeping our readers informed. 
We’ve removed our paywall from essential coronavirus news stories. Become a subscriber to support our journalists. Subscribe now.

Before President Trump abruptly shut down Monday’s White House coronavirus press conference, he boasted of the nation’s current capacity for testing: “We have met the moment, and we have prevailed.” While the message is consistent with his goal to reopen the economy to embolden his electoral prospects, it does not mesh with the reality on the ground on which he stood. As contact tracers worked over the weekend to find out who at the White House had interacted with infected staffers, the administration still does not know how the coronavirus breached the West Wing, which has reported two confirmed cases of COVID-19.

With Trump broadcasting a message of confidence and security as states reopen, the White House is shoring up its coronavirus security. Despite the president’s reported opinion that wearing a mask is a “sign of weakness,” anyone who enters the West Wing will now be required to wear face coverings while on the site. Trump, who gave the order, will not. Staffers will also be subject to daily temperature checks, and are encouraged to “work remotely, if at all possible.” Others including Stephen Miller — the husband of Vice-President Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller, who tested positive — Anthony Fauci, CDC director Robert Redfield, and FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn will self-isolate following their exposure. And though Pence had been in direct contact with Katie Miller, he only took the weekend to self-isolate; on Monday, Trump said he and his vice-president will keep their distance for the time being: “We can talk on the phone.”

President Trump is reportedly aware that the White House outbreak contradicts his positive message.

If the most secure workplace in the nation cannot keep out the virus, there is little hope that firms can do so while reopening in the face of significant financial stress — even if the country did have a robust testing regimen. On Monday, Brad Smith, deputy administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, stated that the federal goal for May is for every state to test a minimum of 2 percent of the population, which is far below levels that public-health experts deem necessary for a safe reopening. (While the 2 percent goal would result in around 12.9 million tests for the month, one Harvard estimate puts the adequate number for a reopening at five million per day, which was the goal the president set for his administration last month.) Trump, meanwhile, delivered a different message, holding his coronavirus press conference next to a banner that read “America leads the world on testing.”

White House Outbreak Undercuts Trump’s Reopening Message