Reports indicate that a new policy is being put into place at the White House after staffers close to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Most people working in the West Wing at the White House will now be required to wear masks while on the grounds, but there are some notable exceptions.
According to ABC News, details regarding the new mask policy were distributed to West Wing staff on Monday afternoon. This new policy comes just days after several people close to Trump and Pence tested positive for the virus, including a valet of the president's and Katie Miller, the vice president's press secretary.
Staffers have apparently been told that they must now wear a mask upon entering the West Wing or moving around the public grounds. In addition, they are being asked to social distance as much as possible. However, when at their desks, staff can take off the masks.
The Washington Post notes that this requirement that staffers wear masks will apply to "most" White House officials. Aides have reportedly said that Trump himself will probably still not wear any type of mask or protective face covering, though.
In addition, Pence was spotted on the White House grounds on Monday. Apparently, he was not wearing a mask either.The new requirement comes as the president has publicly been questioning the value of testing. He has said that he thinks testing makes the country look bad, as it escalates the number of confirmed cases found. Last week, he also questioned whether testing was helpful, given that Miller had tested negative for coronavirus on Thursday and then was positive on Friday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has started to recommend that the general public wear masks when away from home. Up to this point, however, many senior officials around Trump have gone without wearing masks.
Masks seem to rarely be seen in photos or videos from appearances or meetings involving Trump, for example. Whether mask usage among top staffers will become more commonplace in private during routine tasks given this new directive remains to be seen.
The president was slated to hold a press briefing on Monday -- his first in a couple of weeks. Reports suggest he will point out that there is enough coronavirus testing available to allow much of the country to reopen. Some areas have already started this process, while others are taking a slower approach.
Given the significant changes brought about by the recent increase in COVID-19 cases among White House staffers, many people will be interested to see how thoroughly the new directive is implemented in everyday practice, and whether Pence and Trump will set the tone by following the CDC recommendations themselves.