White House staffers instructed to now wear masks after coronavirus cases

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Staffers at the White House were instructed on Monday to wear masks while at work or on their way to work in order to prevent the transmission of the novel coronavirus after several people working in the building were reported to have contracted the disease, Fox News is told.

The White House is now providing employees with masks and asking people to practice social distancing, sources said. Anecdotal reports from inside 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. on Monday said that many more people were seen with facial coverings.

The mandate from the White House comes after a number of people close to both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have become infected with the contagion.


Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller, married to top White House adviser Stephen Miller, tested positive last Friday.

Six people who had been in contact with Miller were scheduled to fly with Pence on Friday to Des Moines, Iowa, on Air Force Two. They were removed from the flight just before it took off. All six later tested negative and Pence is not self-isolating, the White House said.

On March 20, another staffer tested positive for coronavirus, making that the first White House staffer known to have the virus. Though White House officials were not being tested regularly at that time, Pence said he had not had recent contact with the unidentified individual.

Also last week a U.S. military member who works on the White House grounds as a valet for Trump tested positive for COVID-19.

A presidential valet is tasked with taking care of the president's wardrobe, as well as performing other services. Typically, presidents have had one valet, but Trump has several.


The valet reportedly started exhibiting symptoms Wednesday before testing positive. The president said he had “very little personal contact” with the man and told reporters he would be tested daily.

Three members of the White House coronavirus task force -- Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration -- are self-quarantining this week after having contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Fauci’s institute said he is at “relatively low risk” based on his degree of exposure and that he would be “taking appropriate precautions" to mitigate the risk to personal contacts while still carrying out his duties. While he will stay at home and telework, Fauci will go to the White House if called and take every precaution, the institute said.

The CDC said in a statement Saturday that Redfield would be teleworking for the next 2 weeks after he had a “low risk exposure” to someone who tested positive at the White House. The statement said he felt fine and has no symptoms. If he must go to the White House to fulfill any responsibilities as part of the coronavirus task force, he will follow CDC practices for critical infrastructure workers.

The FDA confirmed earlier Saturday that Hahn had come in contact with someone who tested positive and was in self-quarantine for the next two weeks. He tested negative for the virus.


All three health officials are scheduled to testify before a Senate committee on Tuesday.  Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the panel, said the White House will allow Redfield, Hahn and Fauci to testify by videoconference, a one-time exception to the administration's policies on hearing testimony.

Despite the number of people working at the White House who have become ill with COVID-19 or who have been in contact with someone who has, Trump has refused to don a mask – even during a recent trip to a Honeywell facility in Arizona, although he did wear goggles. Pence has at times refused to wear a mask during trips outside of the White House, including during a trip to the Mayo Clinic. (He later expressed regret and wore a mask at a subsequent event).

Trump announced federal guidelines last month recommending that Americans wear face coverings when in public to help fight the spread of the new coronavirus, but quickly followed it by saying he would not adhere to them.

“It’s a recommendation, they recommend it,” Trump said. “I just don’t want to wear one myself.”

Fox News’ John Roberts and Morgan Phillips contributed to this report.