White House officials asked to wear masks in West Wing
White House officials working in the West Wing are being asked to wear masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, according to a memo distributed to staffers on Monday.
Officials in the building are being asked to wear face coverings when they’re not at their desks or able to maintain social distancing from others, a White House official confirmed to The Hill.
The memo, which was obtained by The Hill, also urges staffers to “avoid unnecessary visits” to the White House.
“We continue to encourage all [executive office of the president] staff to use a facial covering whenever social distancing is not possible,” the memo states.
The shift in protocol comes days after two White House staffers tested positive for the coronavirus. One is a military member who serves as one of President Trump’s personal valets, and the other is Vice President Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance last month encouraging Americans to wear masks when social distancing was not possible, noting that it can cut down on the risk of those carrying the virus transmitting it to others.
The White House has implemented a number of measures in recent days to try and insulate officials from the virus, which health experts warn is highly contagious. The building is being deep-cleaned more frequently, and Trump, Pence and officials who meet with them regularly are being tested daily for the virus instead of weekly.
Still, the addition of masks is noteworthy, given the reluctance of Trump and his top aides to wear them on camera.
The president previously scoffed at the idea, saying in April that he didn’t like the idea of wearing one while meeting with world leaders. He did not wear one on camera during a visit to an Arizona mask production facility, though he later claimed he wore one while off-camera.
Pence drew scrutiny when he did not wear a face covering during a visit to the Mayo Clinic, defying the facility’s policy.
The president met last week with roughly two dozen Republican lawmakers at the White House. They were seated around a table just a few feet apart, and none of them wore masks. Officials defended the lack of face coverings at the time, noting that they had all tested negative that day.
Miller’s positive test has had some ripple effects within the building. Three members of the White House task force are going into some form of self-quarantine out of an abundance of caution after Miller sat in on a meeting last week.
Pence is working from the White House on Monday, but he is expected to take precautions while he is there to avoid extensive interactions with others. He is not scheduled to attend a press conference in the Rose Garden with the president on Monday afternoon.
–Olivia Beavers contributed to this report, which was updated at 3:42 p.m.
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