White House considers new measures after staffers test positive

Two aides on the White House campus tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

By Morgan Winsor

ABC News – A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 282,000 people worldwide.

Over 4.1 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations’ outbreaks.

Since the first cases were detected in China in December, the United States has become the worst-affected country, with more than 1.3 million diagnosed cases and at least 79,528 deaths.

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Additional measures are being put in place in the West Wing after two aides on the White House campus tested positive for the novel coronavirus, ABC News has learned.

While attendees of meetings have been semi-spaced out in recent weeks, there hasn’t been a six-foot distance between them and aides haven’t been seen wearing face masks. Sources told ABC News more aides may start wearing masks, though they will not be required to do so.

One measure under consideration is that aides must maintain a six-foot physical distance during meetings, including ones with President Donald Trump, a senior-level source told ABC News.

There is a list of over a dozen people who will be tested daily for the virus before reporting to work in the West Wing, multiple sources said.

In addition, any others who are scheduled to meet with the president on a particular day will be tested.

The testing takes place in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, adjacent to the White House.

“We are going to continue to conduct business but not run the risk of being potentially infected by a common source,” a personal familiar with the discussions of potential new procedures told ABC News.

Secret Service agents close to the president and in the vicinity of the Oval Office will also begin wearing face masks, sources said. The Secret Service declined to comment Sunday night.

Some agents already on the ground during Trump’s Arizona trip last week were seen wearing face masks.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said on Friday that the White House “is probably the safest place you can come to,” despite confusion internally about what the Trump administration was actually doing to keep the building and its employees safe since they don’t follow social distancing measures.

Over the weekend, Meadows worked with the White House medical and security units to put additional protocols in place, sources said.

“Any meetings the president goes to, people will maintain maximum social distancing measures,” one administration official told ABC News.

There were also discussions over the weekend about separating Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. But, at this point, multiple officials said that’s unlikely and the pair will still attend meetings together.

Pence did not self-quarantine over the weekend, despite his press secretary Katie Miller being diagnosed with COVID-19 on Friday. There was some confusion as to whether he did because he was not in attendance for a Saturday meeting at the White House.

Last week, a U.S. military service member who works at the White House campus and serves as a valet to the president also tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Since then, some teams inside the White House have unilaterally decided to work from home.

Many aides who were in meetings with Miller have been contacted, especially those that were sitting near her, according to meeting seating charts seen by ABC News. It is not clear whether additional administration officials are self-quarantining as a result of coming into contact with anyone who has tested positive for the virus.

Sources said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a prominent member of the White House coronavirus task force, and Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator, are scheduled to be at the White House for meetings on Monday.

ABC News’ Katherine Faulders, Alina Lobzina, Phoebe Natanson, John Santucci and Karson Yiu contributed to this report.

Categories: National News, News