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The offices are overcrowded, the visitors are constant and the boss doesn’t like people in masks: Welcome to the White House, where President Donald Trump has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The discovery in the early hours of Friday that Trump and his wife, Melania were both positive, led employees into a hectic cycle of contact tracing and emergency testing.

It is not an easy task.

Crowds and travel

Do you avoid large groups, remain masked and socially distant? Not for this president.

Trump has held a growing number of re-election rallies with thousands of people huddled together and, in most cases, not covering their faces.

The last was in Minnesota on Wednesday, where it was accompanied by close advisor Hope Hicks, who tested positive on Thursday.

Another scheduled for Florida on Friday has been canceled.

Trump was due to fly to a rally in Wisconsin, a state where infections are increasing, on Saturday. Next week it should be a long distance swing across the west, including Arizona.

Many of these events take place outdoors, but last week Trump met with hundreds of supporters indoors in Florida and Georgia.

He also held a grand gathering in the White House rose garden last Saturday to announce Amy Coney Barrett as his candidate for the Supreme Court.

The White House said Friday that it has since tested negative.

Tight spaces

The White House is less of a typical government office building than a mansion converted for government use with small offices and corridors.

Even the famous oval office quickly becomes cramped, while “office” for employees often means just a desk crammed into a niche.

Trump’s powerful son-in-law, Jared Kushner, works in one of the smaller offices, for example. But, as he told Time Magazine, it’s in a “good location” – right next to the President’s private dining room, a popular hangout for Trump.

Almost 400 people work in the White House, apart from the journalists, who work in an even smaller press wing. And while journalists adhere strictly to mask guidelines, only a few employees do so.

Trump has made fun of masks a lot but says he’s safe because of frequent tests.

The White House uses Abbott’s rapid test, which can give results in minutes, but the screening protocols are not watertight.

For example, some journalists are systematically tested while others, who have not yet been tested, are meters away from Trump when he answers questions with his Marine One helicopter.

Even Trump’s test plan is unclear.

In July, spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said he took a test “several times a day”. Trump contradicted her statement “on average every two days, three days a test”.

Airplanes, helicopters, automobiles

If the White House is crowded, try Air Force One, Marine One, or the limousine known as “The Beast” – all modes of transportation that keep guests within reach of the President.

Hicks, 31, was dating Trump when he flew to Cleveland for his first of three debates against Democratic challenger Joe Biden on Tuesday. She was with him again, flying to Minnesota for the next day’s rally, including the short but particularly tight stage on Marine One.

The New York Times reported that Hicks felt sick on the flight home from Minnesota and quarantined himself during Air Force One.

A matter of discussion

Trump’s controversial position on masks, which he has often downplayed or even mocked, couldn’t have been more on display than in Tuesday’s debate against Biden.

Trump’s family and entourage, including the first lady, arrived masked at the Cleveland Clinic, which was hosting the event, but then removed their masks. An attempt by a doctor to hand out masks was reportedly rejected by Trump guests.

And according to Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor who had helped Trump prepare the debate a few days earlier, “nobody was wearing masks in the room when we prepared.”

There were “about five or six people” in the discussion prep room, Christie said.

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© 2020 AFP

Quote: Overcrowded, no mask: Why the White House is a COVID Hazard Zone (2020, October 2), accessed October 2, 2020 from white-house -covid.html

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