Despite White House outbreak, Trump and some aides return to work, flouting CDC guidance

But midafternoon — less than a week after testing positive for the potentially lethal virus — Trump returned to work in the West Wing, potentially endangering any staffers still in the building.

Trump’s presence there sent yet another message to the public that illness has not chastened a president who has consistently eschewed masks and social distancing. His rush to get back to business as usual just two days after leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center has been the most prominent example of the continued defiance of public health guidelines at the White House. But it isn’t the only one.

Though aides who have tested positive, including counselor Hope Hicks and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, have stayed home, aides who have continued to test negative have remained on the job. Among them were Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, senior adviser Jared Kushner, social media director Dan Scavino and political director Brian Jack, administration officials said.

Kushner was in contact with Christie, Hicks and others involved in prepping the president for last week’s debate. Meadows has been in contact with virtually everyone in the president’s orbit who is now sick. And at least four aides who traveled on Air Force One and Marine One with a maskless Trump last Thursday were in the White House this week, officials say.

Meanwhile, Vice President Pence, who aides said has had several negative tests, flew to Utah on Tuesday to prepare for his debate late Wednesday with the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.).

Pence attended the Sept. 26 Rose Garden ceremony — to announce Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court — that is suspected to be at the center of the White House outbreak. He was near others during the ceremony who have since tested positive and was in the Oval Office last week with Trump, albeit briefly.

And almost every senior official in the White House this week shared a room with an aide or adviser who has since tested positive, officials said, but they defended their presence by saying it was usually not in “close contact” — or within six feet for more than 15 minutes.

Their decisions reflect a White House that has declined to follow the best medical practices to contain the virus, even as at least 13 employees in the complex have tested positive. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that anyone exposed to the virus remain isolated for at least two weeks to avoid the risk of spreading the virus to others.

Beyond the White House gates, other Trump aides also have exhibited a reluctance to fully embrace the CDC guidelines — most prominently Attorney General William P. Barr, who also attended the Sept. 26 Rose Garden ceremony. Despite that, Barr attended a Justice Department meeting Friday and, after several days at home, returned again to his office Wednesday, aides said.

Since news of Trump’s infection was made public last Thursday, Barr has had six coronavirus tests

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Little evidence that White House has offered contact tracing, guidance to hundreds potentially exposed to Trump

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

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