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

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