White House senior adviser Kevin Hassett said Sunday it’s “scary” to go to work in the West Wing after two Trump administration staffers tested positive for COVID-19 within the past week.
Hassett, who formerly served as President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that he practices “aggressive social distancing” and will “wear a mask when I feel it’s necessary.”
“It is scary to go to work,” he said. “I was not part of the White House in March. I think that I’d be a lot safer if I was sitting at home instead of going to the West Wing. But, you know, it’s a time when people have to step up and serve their country.
“We’re lucky at the White House that we have the best medical team on Earth to help protect us, and that is some comfort,” he added. “But I think everybody knows that going to work” in the White House is “a little bit risky. But you have to do it, because you have to serve your country, and there are a lot of things you can’t do except there.”
Hassett said that’s why White House doctors “are so careful about testing everybody every day.”
“It’s because they know they are going into relatively cramped quarters,” he added.
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Hassett’s comments came after Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, who is married to top Trump administration official Stephen Miller, and one of Trump’s personal valets both tested positive for COVID-19 last week. The White House has ramped up testing from once a week to daily for administration officials, including Trump and Pence, both of whom White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said tested negative Friday.
Miller said she tested positive Friday after having tested negative the day before. An administration official told NBC News on Friday night that her husband tested negative. A White House official said Miller was at the White House in the morning before she tested positive, adding that she was showing “symptoms.”
Meanwhile, after learning that one of his valets had tested positive, Trump became “lava level mad” at his staff and said he doesn’t feel it is doing all it can to protect him, a person close to the White House said. The source said the unknowingly infected valet is close to the president throughout the day, although Trump said Thursday that he’d had “very little contact, personal contact, with this gentleman.”
Of Miller, Trump told reporters that “she tested positive out of the blue.”
Some White House aides in contact with her had already been retested Friday, with Trump saying in the afternoon, “This is why the whole concept of tests aren’t necessarily great.”
“The tests are perfect, but something can happen between a test where it’s good and something happens,” he said.
The same day, chief of staff Mark Meadows said the White House “is probably the safest place you can come to.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who recently had close contact with someone who came down with COVID-19 should stay at home for 14 days following their last exposure and that they should check their temperature twice daily and stay away from those who are at a high risk of getting ill.
Three members of the White House coronavirus task force are self-quarantining after the potential exposure, administration officials said Saturday. They are Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, and Dr. Stephen Hahn, head of the Food and Drug Administration.
Fauci is expected to work mostly from home but plans to testify in person before the Senate this week. Hahn and Redfield plan to testify via videoconference.
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Larry Kudlow, the White House’s top economic adviser, said on ABC News’ “This Week” that more staffers may opt to self-quarantine.
“I don’t want to rule anything in or rule anything out,” he said. “At the moment, there’s daily testing, as you may know, for people who come into contact with the president and the vice president. Everybody wants to be safe. We’re going to do the best we can. We will follow the rules and guidelines of the White House medical unit.”
Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Hassett said, “We’ve all been exposing ourselves to risks under the best guidance we could have to stay safe, but we’re willing to take that chance because we love our country.”
“And, you know, knock on wood, I have tested negative the last two days,” Hassett said when asked whether he’s felt any symptoms, adding, “I think it’s going to be a few days of watch and wait and make sure.”