Coronavirus-positive Trump's return to White House raises concerns about staff
United States President Donald Trump returned to the White House as he checked out of a hospital on Monday after four days of emergency treatment for COVID-19. The move raised concerns about the risk of infections to the White House staff. Even though the White House said that they will take precautions, Trump was seen removing his mask as he entered the complex.
How severe is Trump's illness?
Last week, Trump confirmed that he and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for COVID-19. The US President received treatment at the Walter Reed military medical center and reportedly received extra oxygen twice as his oxygen levels dipped. He was also given the steroid dexamethasone, which is usually administered in severe cases. Still infectious, Trump returned to the White House on Monday.
White House is taking every precaution: Spokesperson
White House officials plan to significantly restrict physical access to Trump during his recovery. White House spokesperson Judd Deere said on Monday night, "The White House is taking every precaution necessary to protect not only him and the first family, but every staff member working on the complex." Deere said that anyone who comes close to the President will wear personal protective equipment (PPE).
Trump, Melania rarely wear masks
Notably, Trump and the First Lady have rarely worn masks, much like Trump's political advisers. In a flippant speech, Trump also said, "Now I'm better. Maybe I'm immune, I don't know." However, Deesha Dyer, the White House social secretary under Barack Obama, told The Atlantic not all White House staffers "have the privilege of being Marine One-ed to Walter Reed" if they get sick.
Trump's return, reluctance to take precautions concerns staff
"There are people behind the people," Dyer said, referring to the roughly 100 members of the residence staff, which includes chefs, shoeshiners, valets, butlers, cleaners, etc. To recall, it isn't just the President and the First Lady; other White House officials have also recently tested positive. Unfortunately, the residence staff is apparently not kept in the loop about infections within the complex.
Safety rules not evenly applied: Current White House staffer
One White House staffer—speaking anonymously—told The Atlantic that the fallout from the Trumps' diagnosis is "a huge mess." The staffer said that safety rules are not evenly applied in the White House. "Most [nonpolitical] staff at the White House are required to wear masks," said the staffer, who fears for his job. However, Trump and his political advisers have repeatedly refused to wear masks.
Staffer learned about Trumps' illness through news, not internal communication
Further, the staffer said he learned about the Trumps' illness through news reports. "That happens all the time in this administration," adding that they were not informed about two residence employees testing positive weeks ago either. In an email last night, the White House Management Office warned workers to stay home upon exhibiting symptoms. This was reportedly the first campus-wide email since Trump's illness.
'Former staffers worried about current employees'
Journalist Kate Andersen Brower, who has written three books about the White House, told The Atlantic that she recently interviewed former residence staffers who believe that current employees are in significant danger given their proximity to Trump. "They're very worried about them," Brower said. However, she said that staffers would not risk being fired by speaking up about unsafe conditions.