How the White House Flouted Basic Coronavirus Rules







Person later tested positive for the coronavirus

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Al Drago for the New York Times

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Person later tested positive for the coronavirus

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Al Drago for the New York Times

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Person later tested positive

for the coronavirus

Al Drago for the New York Times

Alex Brandon/Associated Press


The coronavirus outbreak at the White House has now grown to more than 20 people, and evidence is mounting that the administration did little to prevent or contain the virus’s spread.

For months, President Trump minimized the threat of the virus and eschewed basic safety precautions like wearing a mask or maintaining six feet of distance from other people. And at several events last week, White House staff members defied recommendations — from scientists, local authorities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — on curbing infection, even after the president tested positive.

Here’s a look at some of the ways Mr. Trump and his staff members ignored basic guidelines.

The White House relied too heavily on rapid tests alone.

The guidelines

The Food and Drug Administration approved the rapid coronavirus tests used by the White House for use only “within the first seven days of the onset of symptoms.” These tests frequently miss infections in people without symptoms.

The C.D.C. says it may be necessary for those who test negative on a rapid test to confirm the result using a lab-based test, especially if they have symptoms or have been in contact with an infected person.

What Happened

Since the early days of the pandemic, the White House has regularly used rapid tests to screen staff members and guests for the coronavirus because they are fast, portable and easy to operate. But those who tested negative would often skip other precautions, like wearing a mask or social distancing. Experts say rapid tests are less accurate for people who are not showing any signs of infection, and they should not be used as the only precaution.


SEPT. 26 Rapid tests were used to screen guests ahead of President Trump’s announcement of his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court at a ceremony in the Rose Garden. The Rev. John I. Jenkins, the president of the University of Notre Dame and a guest at the event, said he was told he could take off his mask after his rapid test result was negative. At least 12 people present, including Father Jenkins, have since reportedly tested positive. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Testing negative does not guarantee a lack of infection, since people who have been recently infected may not have enough virus in their bodies for tests to detect. Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to the president, and Kayleigh McEnany, the press secretary, both tested positive early this week after testing negative in the preceding days.

And while officials had given the impression that Mr. Trump was getting tested every day, the White House has since conceded that tests were not as frequent and has refused to reveal the last time Mr. Trump tested negative.

Members of the administration did not wear masks, held meetings indoors and failed to maintain recommended social distance.

The guidelines

The C.D.C.’s ongoing guidelines for preventing the spread of the coronavirus say to remain at least six feet away from people outside your household and to “cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others.”

The nation’s health protection agency also recommends hosting gatherings outdoors when possible.

What Happened

The Trump administration allowed those who received a negative result to go without a mask to meetings and events, including at a reception inside the White House for Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett.


SEPT. 26 Administration officials and guests shook hands, hugged and made conversation in tight quarters indoors without wearing masks or following social distancing guidelines. Doug Mills/The New York Times

The president also huddled with advisers for maskless preparation sessions ahead of the first presidential debate, held on Sept. 29. Several of those involved — including Chris Christie, a former governor of New Jersey; Kellyanne Conway, a former White House adviser; Hope Hicks, a current adviser; and Bill Stepien, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager — have said they have since tested positive.


SEPT. 27 Mr. Christie, left, and Rudolph W. Giuliani, who were at the White House for an earlier debate prep session, watched alongside Ms. McEnany as Mr. Trump delivered remarks at a news briefing. Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

The president and his staff members also spent several hours in the enclosed space of Air Force One last week traveling to events in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Ohio and New Jersey. At least eight people aboard those flights, including Ms. Hicks, Ms. McEnany, Mr. Miller and Mr. Stepien, have since tested positive for the virus.

The White House and Trump campaign hosted large gatherings that flouted state and local restrictions.

The guidelines

C.D.C. guidelines say large, in-person gatherings where it is difficult to maintain social distance of at least six feet apart pose the “highest risk” of spreading the coronavirus among all types of gatherings and events. This includes both indoor and outdoor events.

What Happened

The White House and Trump campaign held several large rallies, fund-raisers and other events in the week before Mr. Trump tested positive.


SEPT. 30: A Trump campaign rally in Duluth, Minn., was attended by 3,000 people. The next night, the president tested positive. Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse

The day after Mr. Trump hosted at least 200 people in the Rose Garden, the president hosted a White House reception honoring Gold Star families. At least 100 people attended the indoor reception, including Adm. Charles Ray, the vice commandant of the Coast Guard, who has since tested positive, prompting many of the country’s top military officials to go into quarantine.

A citywide order in Washington prohibits gatherings of more than 50 people, but because the White House is on federal property, it is exempt from local rules.

The Trump campaign also held three large outdoor rallies that week in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Minnesota, three states whose guidelines limit gatherings to 250 people. Officials in Pennsylvania criticized the Trump campaign for flouting local regulations, and the Virginia event also drew scrutiny.


SEPT. 25 The Trump campaign held a rally for several hundred people in Newport News, Va., after Virginia health officials said the event would violate the governor’s ban on large gatherings. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The president and his aides did not quarantine after people near them showed symptoms and tested positive.

The guidelines

The C.D.C. says those who have been in “close contact” with someone who tests positive should quarantine for 14 days, starting from two days before the infected person’s illness onset.

The White House says it is following C.D.C. guidelines for essential personnel who have come in contact with infected people.

What Happened

On Sept. 30, Mr. Trump flew aboard Air Force One with staff members and members of Congress to Minnesota for a fund-raiser and rally. That night, Ms. Hicks felt ill and isolated at the back of Air Force One on the way home.

Anyone who was in close contact with Ms. Hicks in the two days before she started feeling symptoms should have quarantined.


SEPT. 30 White House staff members, including Ms. Hicks, walked to board Air Force One en route to events in Minnesota. Ms. Hicks began to feel symptoms during the trip, leading her to isolate on the plane for the return trip. Tom Brenner for The New York Times

Yet despite knowing of Ms. Hicks’s illness, Mr. Trump and his aides traveled the next day to Bedminster, N.J., to a small indoor round table and then a larger outdoor fund-raiser. That evening, Bloomberg News reported that Ms. Hicks had tested positive, and after midnight, Mr. Trump revealed he had also tested positive.

Even after Mr. Trump and Ms. Hicks tested positive, Ms. McEnany, who had been in close contact with both of them, continued to go to work. She hosted a news conference while maskless on the White House lawn on Friday and went to work on Sunday, later saying she acted as an essential worker. On Monday, she said she had tested positive.


OCT. 2 Ms. McEnany held a news conference on Friday, after Mr. Trump and Ms. Hicks tested positive. By Tuesday, Ms. McEnany and four of her aides had tested positive. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino Jr., the president’s social media director, have continued to work from the West Wing despite repeated exposure to the president. Both were with Mr. Trump at Walter Reed Medical Center after he was hospitalized over the weekend and joined the president in the Oval Office on Wednesday, six days after the president’s positive test.

The president failed to isolate after testing positive.

The guidelines

Those who test positive for the coronavirus should isolate themselves from others for a minimum of 10 days after testing positive, according to the C.D.C., or for at least 10 days after symptoms first appear.

What Happened

Mr. Trump announced he had tested positive early Friday. That means he should have isolated until at least early next week — even if he had stopped experiencing symptoms, as his doctors said he has.

Instead, Mr. Trump, escorted by Secret Service agents, left isolation on Sunday for a drive-by to greet supporters, flew to the White House on Marine One on Monday, and re-entered the White House without wearing a mask, defying guidance that is designed to protect others. Video footage of the president before he walked into the White House on Monday showed him in close proximity to a photographer and several other people.


OCT. 4 Less than three days after he revealed his positive test, Mr. Trump gave a thumbs up to onlookers during a drive around Walter Reed Medical Center, where he was being treated for the coronavirus. Cheriss May/Reuters

The White House is not tracing contacts of those at a potential “super-spreader” event.

The guidelines

The C.D.C. advises contact tracing for close contacts of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus or are considered probable cases. Contact tracers notify, interview, and advise the close contacts of the infected person, and the C.D.C. says close contacts should themselves be tested.

What Happened

Even though at least 12 attendees have since tested positive, the White House has decided not to trace the contacts of those who attended the Rose Garden event for Judge Barrett. Instead, the White House said it would notify only those who came into contact with Mr. Trump in the two days before his positive test on Oct 1.

A White House spokesman did say contact tracing “was completed” for Mr. Trump’s Oct. 1 trip to Bedminster. One guest confirmed he received three emails alerting him to possible exposure — one from the Trump campaign and two from state and local government tracers — but said no one had called him.

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