In between, the president met with dozens of aides in meetings in which few people wore masks. He appeared before thousands at a rally in Minnesota. And he held a nationally televised debate with former vice president Joe Biden after holing up with debate preppers.
But there was little evidence on Saturday that the White House or the campaign had reached out to these potentially exposed people, or even circulated guidance to the rattled staffers within the White House complex.
It was the latest evidence of the administration’s casual and chaotic approach to the viral threat that has already claimed more than 200,000 lives in the United States.
The crisis within a crisis is emblematic of an administration that has often mocked or ignored the coronavirus guidance of its own medical experts. In this case, the failure to move swiftly potentially jeopardized the health of their own supporters and those close to them, who might fall ill and unwittingly spread the infection to others.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had a contact tracing team ready to go, according to multiple sources, but had not been asked to mobilize, even though White House physician Sean Conley said at a press briefing that his team was working with the agency.
Conley also said he was coordinating with local health agencies, but officials in Minnesota, Ohio and New Jersey, where Trump held events in recent days, said they haven’t heard from the White House and are racing largely on their own to find people potentially exposed to the virus.
White House spokesman Judd Deere said any positive test result on the complex is taken seriously and contact tracing is underway.
“The White House has plans and procedures in place that incorporate current CDC guidelines and best practices for limiting covid-19 exposure and has established a robust contact tracing program,” Deere said.
A CDC epidemiologist is detailed to the White House and additional assistance from the CDC will be requested “if necessary,” said an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal plans.
Numerous guests at the crowded Sept. 26 Rose Garden event at which Trump introduced Amy Coney Barrett as his high court nominee said they have not been contacted by anyone at the White House.
Prominent conservative leader Michael Farris interacted there with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who has tested positive for coronavirus, just before Lee gave two other people hugs. A video of Farris, who did not wear a mask, shows him scratching his nose after interacting with Lee. Farris said he is awaiting results of a test that will take another day to get results back, but he said he feels fine.
“There’s nothing fail-safe about any protocol, so I’m not upset,” Farris said.
One man who was pictured mingling in the front rows of the Rose Garden event, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private medical details, said he heard from no one from the government but his doctor had emailed