White House issues memo requiring staff to wear masks in West Wing

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KEY POINTS
  • The White House is requiring all staffers to wear masks or facial coverings when entering the West Wing of the building, NBC News reported Monday, citing two sources familiar with the matter.
  • The new precaution comes days after two staffers close to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence tested positive for the coronavirus.
  • Trump and Pence have both resisted wearing masks in public or at the White House.
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White House advisor Jared Kushner (C) and others wear face masks while attending a press briefing about coronavirus testing in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 11, 2020 in Washington, DC.
White House advisor Jared Kushner (C) and others wear face masks while attending a press briefing about coronavirus testing in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 11, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

The White House is requiring all staffers to wear masks or facial coverings when entering the West Wing of the building, NBC News reported Monday, citing two sources familiar with the matter.

The new precaution comes days after two staffers close to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence tested positive for the coronavirus.

The directive from the White House management office was laid out in a memo to staffers Monday afternoon, NBC reported. The White House said it will make masks available for employees who need them, according to NBC.

The memo also asked staff members to avoid visiting the West Wing, where the Oval Office is located, unless it is necessary, the sources told NBC.

Trump and Pence have both resisted wearing masks in public or at the White House. Trump did not wear a mask last week while touring a Honeywell factory in Phoenix, Arizona, that was producing N95 masks. A White House official said at the time that Honeywell had told the White House that Trump and other visitors did not need to wear masks.

When asked Friday at a roundtable event with Republican members of Congress why White House staffers were not seen wearing masks by the reporters stationed at the building, Trump said, “They are … the people that are serving me are.”

Pence was criticized for refusing to wear a mask during an April 28 visit to the Mayo Clinic. The vice president did wear a mask two days later, during a visit to a General Motors plant in Indiana.

The Centers for Disease Control, a division of the Trump administration’s Health and Human Services Department, in early April updated its guidance to recommend “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”

Trump, who first announced that update, said at the time, “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”

On Thursday, a personal valet for the president, who assisted the president with his food, clothes and other personal needs, tested positive for the coronavirus. A White House spokesman said later that day that Trump and Pence had since tested negative.

On Friday, Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, who is married to senior Trump advisor Stephen Miller, also tested positive.

Katie Miller said she was asymptomatic and that she tested negative a day before testing positive Friday, NBC reported.

Trump’s physician and White House staff “continue to work closely to ensure every precaution is taken to keep the President, First Family and the entire White House Complex safe and healthy at all times,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement later Friday.

Deere said the White House was taking steps to prevent transmission of the disease in the building, including daily temperature checks, making hand sanitizer available and regularly deep-cleaning work spaces.”

Trump and Pence also said that they would be tested for Covid-19 daily, as would every staff member and guest in proximity to them.

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