WASHINGTON — In a memo to his senior staff on Friday morning, Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, encouraged everyone to stay away from their offices in the Old Executive Office Building while contact tracing was going on. On Saturday, he held an all-staff conference call to discuss what the coming weeks would look like while President Trump remained under treatment for the coronavirus, and later reiterated the message that staff members were to work from home.
At the Trump campaign headquarters in Virginia, Bill Stepien, the campaign manager who tested positive for the virus himself, instructed staff members to “wear a mask, wash your hands, socially distance, check in via the LiveSafe app on a daily basis and work from home if you’re not feeling well.”
Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, delivered no guidance to the president’s aides about how they were expected to behave in a moment of crisis. But the West Wing has also been a ghost town since Mr. Trump’s departure for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Friday afternoon.
With the president hospitalized and Melania Trump, the first lady, who also tested positive, recovering in the residence, only a few officials came in over the weekend for television appearances or to give Mr. Trump a national security briefing by phone.
The West Wing always clears out when the president is not in the building, usually because a large portion of the senior staff travel with him wherever he goes or on weekends. But over the past few days, it has been even quieter.
A number of staff members are either sick themselves or quarantining after being in contact with Mr. Trump or colleagues who have tested positive for the coronavirus. Some advisers, like Mr. Meadows and Dan Scavino, the deputy White House chief of staff for communications, have been at the hospital in order to remain in the president’s immediate orbit.
Missing as well in recent days has been a deployment of West Wing staff members, including Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, and some communications staff members like Julia Hahn and Ben Williamson, who have been working out of Mr. Pence’s office on Capitol Hill in preparation for the expected Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Mr. Pence himself was working from his residence over the weekend.
The lack of marching orders from Mr. Meadows was not exactly a surprise to many administration officials. They have long expressed frustration at how he operates, neglecting to relay messages to the president from agency leaders who ask to speak with him and giving off the impression that he is focused solely on trying to score a legislative victory for himself to please the boss.
Some Trump allies on Capitol Hill said it was “disturbing” to see how Mr. Meadows was handling the current crisis. And administration officials were left puzzling over his strategy or motives for delivering information about Mr. Trump’s health.
On Saturday, Mr. Meadows