More staffers are coming up positive as the easily transmitted virus spreads through the White House
Donald and Melania Trump are not the only people living and working in the White House. As news broke last week that the couple had tested positive for COVID-19, few thought to ask how that impacted the team of household staffers, Secret Service, and the myriad other people it takes to service the couple’s needs and to keep the 228-year-old mansion running.
Now, according to Forbes, two members of the White House housekeeping staff have tested positive, and have reportedly been told to be discreet about it. Kayleigh McEnany, Hope Hicks, and Nicholas Luna are among White Houses senior officials who have contracted the virus and there are potentially five other staffers who have tested positive as well, the outlet says.
Though the staffers reportedly did not have direct contact with the Trump’s, it remains unclear just how many people have been infected among White House front and back end personnel. The Rose Garden ceremony and reception to introduce Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett is now being viewed as a potential “superspreader” event as ten people have now tested positive for the coronavirus who attended, including the Trump’s, McEnany, former N.J. governor Chris Christie, Kellyanne Conway, Sen. Thom Ellis, and Sen. Mike Lee.
It is certainly plausible that among the household staff who set up the event and those that served guests there could be more infections. Though the first lady mandated masks for both her staff and household staff in April, The Washington Post reports her husband did not and it is widely believed the Trump’s rarely wore masks around their personal White House staffers.
As moviegoers may remember from the fictional movie The Bulter, starring Forest Whitaker as a longtime White House butler, most of the White House household staff is African American, along with some that are Latino and Filipino, and many of the Black staffers are elderly.
“I know that people in there are scared,” Sam Kass, the White House head chef for six years in the Obama administration, told the Post. “I’m sure that they are concerned about their own lives and their families and feel very torn about balancing their responsibilities to their country, as they see it, and putting themselves in harm’s way.”
Added to that is the layout of the White House which requires the staff to navigate a narrow warren of hallways, according to those who have worked there. One of them is the former White House social secretary, Deesha Dyer, who told the Post she’s been personally calling staffers to check on them.
“It makes me angry because I do care about these people, and they’re amazing, and so many of them did not have a choice. They love their jobs, and they’re excellent at their jobs, and they’re part of the institution. And it’s just trifling and unnecessary to put them at risk because you can’t be bothered to wear a mask,” Dyer said.
White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah reminded the public that White House staff, like many workers of color around the country in various professions, are considered essential workers. She tweeted today that “they are expected to continue to work – with precautions – unless a medical recommendation otherwise is given.”
One thing I want to clear up: Senior White House staff are deemed Essential Personnel by CDC & DHS. This means they are expected to continue to work – while taking precautions – until a medical recommendation otherwise is given.
— Alyssa Farah (@Alyssafarah) October 5, 2020
The Trump’s personal staffers will continue to take care of them through their isolation once Trump returns to the White House today, putting themselves and their families at risk and without clear guidance on who else may have tested positive.
“Unlike other offices at the White House, it is probably more difficult for anybody on the residence staff to telework,” Laura McBride of American University, who was Laura Bush‘s chief of staff who is now a White House historian, told the Post. “I mean, the nature of their work is to be maintaining the house, cooking for the family.”
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