America (Channel TT) President Donald Trump said Thursday that his staff will be tested daily for coronavirus after a Navy steward who has been in close proximity to him tested positive for the disease.
Trump said he knows the aide but has had "very little contact" with him. Still, he said, aides who have been tested weekly for coronavirus will now be given the test daily. Officials would not say whether Trump himself will be tested daily. "It's a little bit strange," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, "but it's one of those things."
Both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were given new tests after officials learned that the military aide had tested positive for the disease. Trump's and Pence's tests were both negative, administration officials said.
The White House did not identify the infected person and did not say how close he may have gotten to the president and vice president.
The president said testing of White House staff will now be done daily, rather than about once per workweek. Trump has recently touted the rising number of tests now belatedly being done in the United States, but has also routinely played down the importance of testing as a metric for how quickly the country can safely return to normal.
President Trump, right, speaks while Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) listens during a meeting at the White House Thursday.
Trump was frustrated when told of the positive test, but many in his inner circle were also frustrated and began discussing Thursday how they could protect the president, according to aides, who along with other current and former officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the details of internal deliberations over coronavirus testing. However, the president likes to meet with many people and is itching to travel more, these aides said.
Trump said he and Pence had tested negative on Wednesday, which was also the day the valet showed symptoms of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and had again tested negative on Thursday.
A test now might not register positive even if the president or vice president had contracted the virus. Reasons include the limitations of the rapid test used and that if they were infected, they might not yet have a large quantity of virus in the nose or back of the throat where a swab is used to collect a sample.
The valet’s positive test set off a scramble at the White House to test all staff and intensify protections around Trump, three people with knowledge of the response said Thursday.
Staffers held a series of meetings and discussions Thursday on what else could be done to protect the president, including broader use of face masks. One person familiar with those discussions said wider use of masks among staffers close to Trump is expected but will remain optional.
Relatively few staffers who interact frequently with the president wear masks. One who did, deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger, drew snickers from his colleagues, according to aides.
Trump has never worn a face mask in public during the pandemic and has said that to do so while performing his official duties would be unseemly. He was criticized by some Democrats for touring a mask production line on Tuesday while not wearing a mask.
“The president’s physician and White House Operations 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 Thursday.
Deere said that “in addition to social distancing, daily temperature checks and symptom histories, hand sanitizer, and regular deep cleaning of all work spaces” occurs, and that “every staff member in proximity to the president and vice president is being tested daily for covid-19 as well as any guests.”