White House Takes Steps To Protect Trump, Staff From Coronavirus
The White House quietly tightened visitor restrictions last month amid fears that the coronavirus could spread there, and is holding regular meeting on how to reduce the threat to President Trump and his staff, according to a new report.
“In response to the outbreak of COVID-19, the White House has mandated that guests disclose all countries visited in the past 30 days. And further steps are under review by a group led by Tony Ornato, White House deputy chief of staff for operations,” the New York Post reports.
The group was described to The Post by one senior administration official as a “task force” that convenes when necessary to address emerging threat situations.
The biggest visible change in the West Wing has been installation of hand sanitizer stations. But the senior official said temperature checks and ending public tours are possible if the crisis worsens — though neither is imminent.
The Ornato-led group is “constantly monitoring and re-evaluating” White House protocols, the official said.
Back on Feb. 21, the Secret Service began “requiring non-pass-holding visitors to the White House complex to submit a list of countries visited in the past 30 days.”
“It’s not a hard and fast ban, but it lets the medical experts know who to talk to with follow-up questions,” an official told The Post. “People have been very cooperative and understanding, which we appreciate.”
When the virus first emerged in Wuhan, China, Trump barred by foreigners who had visited China in the previous two weeks from entering the U.S. Earlier this week, the ban was extended to Iran and parts of South Korea, where the virus is also spreading rapidly.
Worldwide, there are now more than 100,000 confirmed cases, and more than 3,400 people have died. The virus is also spreading in the U.S., with more than 260 confirmed cases and 14 deaths. No one has yet tested positive for the virus in Washington, DC, but three cases were confirmed Thursday in Maryland.
Trump last week said he was taking the precautions all Americans should take — watching his hands regularly and not touching his face.
“You don’t have to necessarily grab every handrail unless you have to,” Trump said. “You know, you do certain things that you do when you have the flu. I mean, view this the same as the flu. When somebody sneezes — I mean, I try and bail out as much as possible when they’re sneezing.”
He also joked: “I haven’t touched my face in weeks. It’s been weeks. I miss it.”