D.C.-area lawmakers slam 'out of control' COVID outbreak at White House

National Capital Region members of Congress want administration officials to get control of the coronavirus transmissions at the White House complex that is putting residence staff, Secret Service agents, staffers and reporters at risk.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
 

Judge Amy Coney Barrett speaks at the Sept. 26, 2020 White House event where her nomination to the Supreme Court was announced. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighea)

National Capital Region members of Congress want administration officials to get control of the coronavirus transmissions at the White House complex that have affected President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and a growing number of political aides, domestic staff, Secret Service agents and White House reporters.

"Daily announcements of new infections among the political, press, and custodial staff show that the coronavirus outbreak at the White House is out of control," the group of nine lawmakers said in a statement aimed at Chief of Staff Mark Meadows – the former ranking member of the Government Operations subcommittee in the House of Representatives.

The members noted that Washington, D.C., reported its highest single-day spike in new cases since June amid the White House outbreak. The outbreak has been linked in multiple news reports to a White House event announcing Trump's nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court – and event at which few administration officials or attendees work masks and which took place both indoors and outdoors.

"We are alarmed and dismayed by the casual disregard for the health of our community, including constituents who work at the White House as staff, agents or officers of the United States Secret Service, journalists of the White House Correspondents Association, and the general public," lawmakers said.

The statement was issued by Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), Anthony Brown (D-Md.) and David Trone (D-Md.)

The legislators are asking White House officials to commit to a policy of transparency about the outbreak; disclosure of the date of Trump's most recent positive test for COVID-19; total positive tests among White House personnel; a mask requirement covering the White House, its grounds and executive office buildings on the complex; maximum utilization of telework; and cooperation with the contact tracing efforts of District of Columbia and regional health departments.

The Office of the First Lady issued a statement detailing some of the protocols in place for domestic staff, including a mask requirement for resident staff and daily testing for those in direct contact with the First Family and tests for support staff every 48 hours.

"With the recent positive results of the President and First Lady, staff wear full PPE and continue to take all necessary precautions, which include updated procedures to protect against cross contamination," the statement read. Additionally, residence staffers have been offered access to a "well-being consultant" for "mental health concerns."

Former First Lady Michelle Obama reached out to workers at the White House complex on Twitter.

"My heart goes out to everyone touched by this virus, from those at the White House, especially the Secret Service and residence staff whose service ought never be taken for granted, to all those names and stories most of us will unfortunately never know," Obama tweeted.

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