White House staff, Secret Service eye virus with fear, anger

WASHINGTON — The West Wing is a ghost town. Staff members are scared of exposure. And the White House is now a treatment ward for not one — but two — COVID patients, including a president who has long taken the threat of the virus lightly.

President Donald Trump’s decision to return home from a military hospital despite his continued illness is putting new focus on the people around him who could be further exposed if he doesn’t abide by strict isolation protocols.

Throughout the pandemic, White House custodians, ushers, kitchen staff and members of the U.S. Secret Service have continued to show up for work in what is now a coronavirus hot spot, with more than a dozen known cases this week alone.

Trump, still contagious, has made clear that he has little intention of abiding by best containment practices.

As he arrived back at the White House on Monday evening, the president defiantly removed his face mask and stopped to pose on a balcony within feet of a White House photographer. He was seen inside moments later, surrounded by numerous people as he taped a video message urging Americans not to fear a virus that has killed more than 210,000 in the U.S. and 1 million worldwide.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said the White House was “taking every precaution necessary” to protect not just the first family but “every staff member working on the complex” consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and best practices. He added that physical access to the president would be significantly limited and appropriate protective gear worn by those near him.

Nonetheless, the mood within the White House remains somber, with staff fearful they may have been exposed to the virus. As they confront a new reality — a worksite that once seemed like a bubble of safety is anything but — they also have been engaged in finger-pointing over conflicting reports released about the president’s health as well as a lack of information provided internally.

Many have learned about positive tests from media reports and several were exposed, without their knowledge, to people the White House already knew could be contagious.

Indeed, it took until late Sunday night, nearly three full days after Trump’s diagnosis, for the White House to send a staff-wide note in response. Even then, it did not acknowledge the outbreak.

“As a reminder,” read the letter from the White House Management Office, “if you are experiencing any symptoms … please stay home and do not come to work.” Staff who develop symptoms were advised to “go home immediately” and contact their doctors rather than the White House Medical Unit.

Even when Trump was at the hospital, his staff was not immune to risk.

Trump had aides there recording videos and taking photographs of him. On Sunday evening, he took a surprise drive around the hospital to wave to supporters from the window of an SUV. The Secret Service agents in the car with him were

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Anger over Leeds Marsden House student halls’ fire exit ‘tied shut’

A fire exit with wire wrapped around the gate

image copyrightRyan Gleeson

image captionThe fire exit at Marsden House in Leeds was secured with cable ties “to keep out non-resident students”, a student claims

The parent of a Leeds university student said he was “furious” that a fire exit at his son’s accommodation had been tied shut with cable ties.

Marsden House on Burley Road, Leeds, is home to about 900 students.

Ryan Gleeson, whose step-son is studying at Leeds Beckett University, posted a photo of the secured gate at the halls and alerted the fire service.

IQ Student, which manages the building, said it was investigating and student safety was its “highest priority”.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said it had “resolved the issue” after attending the site on Monday.

IQ Student said the gate was “one of several escape routes from the building and is 2m away from an escape route through reception, which is staffed around the clock”.

But students say the gate is also the main point of entry and exit to the halls.

Mr Gleeson’s step-son, who wishes to remain anonymous, said it had been secured shut “all day every day” for four days before the ties were removed.

image copyrightRyan Gleeson

image captionThe adjoining turnstiles had also been blocked to stop people getting in and out, the student said

He claimed he had witnessed security guards securing the gate to keep non-residents from entering the building.

“It doesn’t make us feel very safe when we’re paying so much money to be here. It seems like we’re paying for our own house arrest,” he said.

Mr Gleeson, from Blackpool, said: “I was furious. Absolutely livid that a halls of residence where people are in party mode and will undoubtedly be drinking are put in a greater risk of not being able to find a means of escape from a building and to a point of ultimate safety.

“I understand during fresher’s week students are not entirely blameless in creating a situation but this is an absolutely dangerous way to try and resolve it.”

The fire service said blocking a fire exit was illegal, dangerous, “reckless and puts lives at risk”.

A spokeswoman said IQ Student confirmed “they did not secure the exit” and it was working with the company “to ensure this does not happen again and to identify the individual(s) responsible for securing the exit closed”.

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Removal of flag honoring veterans from White House sparks anger

By Alexandra Alper and Idrees Ali



a large building: FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Trump meets with Turkish President Erdogan in Washington


© Reuters/Tom Brenner
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Trump meets with Turkish President Erdogan in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A decision by the Trump administration earlier this year to move the flag honoring missing war veterans from a prominent position atop the White House to a less visible spot on the South Lawn has angered some veterans and lawmakers, who see it as disrespectful and potentially illegal.

The flag is dedicated to prisoners of war and service members who are missing in action. According to a White House video posted in June, it was relocated in a private ceremony with full military honors, months after President Donald Trump signed into law a bill requiring the flag to be flown at certain federal sites including the White House every day.

The revelations come amid growing questions over Trump’s respect for the military, after a report last week by the Atlantic magazine alleging that Trump had called fallen American soldiers “losers” and “suckers” sparked outrage and controversy.

Trump denied the assertions, but has publicly disparaged the service of the late Senator John McCain, a war veteran, and was accused of criticizing his own generals in excerpts of a forthcoming book titled “Rage,” by Bob Woodward.

“It’s bad enough that President Trump publicly ridicules American heroes like Senator McCain and others who were captured on the battlefield. He inexplicably promotes the Confederate flag but fails to fly the POW/MIA flag,” said Democratic Senator Jack Reed, a co-sponsor of the bill. “It’s part of a pattern of disrespect by President Trump toward those who honorably served our nation.”

Reed, and fellow Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Margaret Hassan, who also co-sponsored the bill, sent a letter to the White House on Thursday requesting that it reconsider the flag’s relocation.

“This decision to abruptly move the POW/MIA Flag from atop the White House to an area that is apparently not visible to the public may violate federal law and does not appropriately honor the service and sacrifices of American prisoners of war, missing servicemembers, and their families,” the letter reads.

The White House defended the change of venue but did not offer a reason for it.

“President Trump dedicated a POW/MIA memorial site earlier this year on the White House grounds to forever remember our heroic service members who were prisoners of war or missing in action,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said. “The President selected a site on the Southwest corner of the South Lawn for this prominent and sacred memorial, which is visible to all those who visit the White House, that features the POW/MIA flag,” he added.

The black and white flag, which reads “you are not forgotten,” depicts a man beneath a guard tower gazing down at a barbed wire fence. Roughly 82,000 American servicemembers are still missing since World War Two.

U.S. law requires the flag to be displayed in a “manner designed to ensure visibility to the public.” In its current position, it

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