WHITE HOUSE - The White House is moving to test officials and other staff daily, instead of once a week, after a valet — part of an elite military team serving meals to President Donald Trump — became ill and tested positive for the coronavirus.
"I've had very little contact, personal contact, with this gentleman,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, explaining he had been tested the previous day and again Thursday following regular COVID-19 tests.
Trump, describing the news as “a little bit strange,” said the valets and other staff in the White House have been wearing masks.
“A lot of people in the White House wear masks,” the president said.
In reply to a reporter’s question, Trump said the first lady, Melania, and their son, Barron, were in “great shape.”
"We're all warriors together. I am, you are, we all are,” the president said.
Shift to daily tests
Vice President Mike Pence also told reporters Thursday that he and the president would now be tested daily.
“We were recently notified by the White House Medical Unit that a member of the United States military, who works on the White House campus, has tested positive for coronavirus,” said White House principal deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley in a statement to VOA, adding that Trump and Pence “have since tested negative for the virus and they remain in great health.”
The personal aide has not been named but is known to be a member of the U.S. Navy assigned to the team of valets at the White House. He reportedly began feeling ill Wednesday morning.
President Trump furious
The president, according to media reports, erupted in anger upon learning of the valet’s coronavirus infection and told staff he did not feel enough was being done to protect him from COVID-19.
Trump, who in recent days has said as many as 100,000 Americans could die of the novel coronavirus, for which there is no vaccine, has been pushing for the country to begin resuming normal economic activity amid the pandemic.
The White House has reportedly shelved a 17-page document written by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that offers step-by-step advice to local authorities on how and when to reopen restaurants and other public places.
The guidelines were obtained by The Associated Press, which reported that the guidelines were supposed to be published last Friday. But CDC scientists quoted by the news agency said they were told it “would never see the light of day.”
The recommendations were never finalized by the CDC, an official of the White House coronavirus task force told VOA on Thursday.
“Guidance in rural Tennessee shouldn’t be the same guidance for urban New York City. For some of these reasons, the task force, which saw this after it was leaked, asked for certain revisions to be made to not only follow the phases in the Open Up America Guidance, but work for all across America whether in rural areas or urban,” the official said.
Criticism of CDC guidelines
In a senior staff meeting at the White House last week, the chief of staff, Mark Meadows, expressed concern that the guidelines were too uniform and regressive for places with minimal numbers of cases, according to The New York Times.
“We have to get our country going,” Trump told reporters Thursday.
More than 1.25 million COVID-19 infections have been confirmed in the United States since the virus was first reported here January 21. Since then more than 75,000 people in the country have died of the coronavirus.
New York City has been the hardest-hit municipality by the outbreak, but a number of COVID-19 hot spots have erupted even in rural parts of the United States, including meatpacking plants, prisons and assisted living facilities.