The White House told staff in an email on Tuesday that it had completed “all contact tracing” for positive Covid-19 cases identified at the White House, and urged anyone who hasn’t been contacted and suspects they have had contact with someone infected by the virus to reach out to the White House Medical Office.
The email, reviewed by CNN, was sent to staff working across the White House complex, following revelations of new infections that include President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump, as well as many top White House advisers. The West Wing had been reluctant to enforce any such regulations among staff, particularly with regard to masks, for fear of undermining the President’s efforts to show that his administration has the pandemic under control.
But after several of the President’s top aides, including Hope Hicks, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and senior adviser Stephen Miller, tested positive in recent days, as well as other midlevel staffers, the White House has been forced to take rushed steps to prevent the spread from getting even worse.
However, New York Times White House correspondent and CNN contributor Michael Shear, who tested positive for the virus following direct interaction with White House officials, told CNN late Tuesday that there’s been no outreach by the White House to do contact tracing or to follow up on his condition. At least one other White House official told CNN that they’ve also alerted officials that they have had direct contact with positive White House personnel, and received no guidance on how to proceed.
The email also laid out new guidance with regard to masks, mandatory random testing of employees, quarantining and coming to work with Covid-19 symptoms.
On contract tracing, the email said that “the White House medical unit, with assistance from the CDC, has completed all contact tracing for positive COVID-19 cases that have been identified at the White House.”
It defined close contact “as contact within six feet for over 15 minutes within 48 hours of symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test.”
On masks, the email notes: “We continue to encourage staff to use a mask or facial coverings, especially when social distancing is not an option. As a reminder, we require everyone who enters the West Wing to wear a mask or facial covering.”
The medical unit is supplying masks to those in need, and masks are also available “at every entrance to the West Wing,” the email said.
Mandatory random Covid-19 testing is also being conducted for all employees working at the Executive Office of the President, known as EOP.
“Failure to report to testing will be considered a refusal to test,” the email notes, and states that deferrals of testing may be obtained by staff who have been teleworking for the past 30 days, plan to in the next 14 days, have been traveling or on previously approved leave.
The email described new guidance on returning to the White House after quarantining, saying that “if you have tested positive for Covid-19, are quarantining due to a close contact or are self-isolating due to symptoms, you MUST be cleared by the White House Medical Unit prior to returning to the EOP Campus. Staff who have fulfilled quarantining requirements (10 days after Covid diagnosis/14 days for close contacts) will be cleared for return to work upon receiving a negative Covid-19 test.”
Any White House staff experiencing Covid-19 symptoms, including sore throat, cough, fever, headache, new loss of taste or smell, muscle aches, chills, diarrhea or difficulty breathing, were asked to “please stay home and do not come to work until you are free of any symptoms.”