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White House staff told to wear face masks

white house face masks
Presidential adviser Jared Kushner and other staff wear face masks at a White House briefing. Photo: Getty
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The White House has directed staff working in the West Wing to wear masks at all times in the building, except when they are at their desks, a senior administration official has confirmed.

The West Wing is where the daily operations of US President Donald Trump’s administration are carried out.

With Trump’s valet and Vice-President Mike Pence’s press secretary both testing positive for the deadly coronavirus last week, pressure is growing on the White House to take further steps to protect the 73-year-old President’s health.

Mr Trump has been resistant to wearing a mask himself and has not put one on in public, though he said he tried some on backstage during a visit to a mask factory in Arizona last week.

The President is in the age group that is considered high risk for complications with the coronavirus, which has killed tens of thousands of people in the US alone.

The White House said last week it was stepping up precautions for people who are around Mr Trump and Mr Pence, both of whom have resumed travel outside Washington.

The two men are being tested for the virus daily and close associates are receiving tests on a daily basis as well.

“In addition to social distancing, daily temperature checks and symptom histories, hand sanitiser, and regular deep cleaning of all work spaces, every staff member in close proximity to the President and Vice-President is being tested daily for COVID-19, as well as any guests,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said on Monday.

After Mr Pence’s spokeswoman Katie Miller tested positive for the virus last week, Mr Trump was asked whether people in the West Wing would begin to wear masks.

He responded that people already were doing so, but he and his guests that day had not donned masks, and staff in the West Wing were not wearing them either.