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Masks no longer required in West Wing, McEnany says

Masks are no longer required of West Wing employees, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday, a loosening of a policy encouraged by administration health officials as a way to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The White House issued a memo on May 11 requiring staffers to wear masks when away from their desks and when social distancing was not possible after two staffers tested positive for COVID-19. But enforcement of the policy had been lax in recent weeks, and McEnany confirmed Wednesday that the policy had changed.

"Masks are recommended but not required," she said when asked about the protocol around the West Wing.

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The May 11 memo was explicit in its requirement that staffers use a face covering to slow the spread of the virus.

"As an additional layer of protection, we are requiring everyone who enters the West Wing to wear a mask or facial covering," the memo stated.

The memo, which was obtained by The Hill, also encouraged all staff "to use a facial covering whenever social distancing is not possible."

The White House implemented additional safety measures in mid-May after a military member who serves as one of President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden campaign slams Facebook after thousands of ads blocked by platform's pre-election blackout Mnuchin says he learned of Pelosi's letter to him about stimulus talks 'in the press' Harris to travel to Texas Friday after polls show tie between Trump, Biden MORE's personal valets and Vice President Pence's communications director, Katie Miller, tested positive for the virus.

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.

But the loosening of requirements on masks contradicts the advice of experts and members of the president's own government, who have urged the public to wear face coverings when outside their homes and cited the use of masks as one of the most effective ways to prevent the transmission of the virus.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance in April 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.

A study published by University of Cambridge researchers last week found that widespread mask-wearing can help prevent a resurgence of the virus with less reliance on lockdowns that have proven economically devastating.

The Trump campaign is planning to hand out masks to attendees at the president's rally in Tulsa, Okla., on Saturday. While rallygoers will be encouraged to wear them, McEnany said they will not be required to do so.