Trump White House is a COVID hotspot and unsafe workplace

  • Following the lead of the boss — President Trump — basic safety COVID-19 protocols were not only ignored by the staff of the White House, they were ridiculed. 
  • Now the White House is a COVID hotspot and an unsafe workplace.
  • There was speculation that the White House could be held criminally or civilly liable, but both are unlikely.
  • The government holds itself to a lower standard for workplace safety standards than it does for private companies. And the Trump administration has gutted the agency that holds employers accountable.
  • Trump is back in the Oval Office despite still being infected with COVID, putting everyone in that building at risk. 
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The White House is an unsafe work environment. 

Over the past few months, following the lead of the boss — President Trump — basic safety COVID-19 protocols were not only ignored by the staff of the White House, they were ridiculed. 

Masks were rarely worn, and often mocked or discouraged. Consistent social distancing among senior staffers didn’t happen, either. Crowded meetings in close quarters continued. 

Once COVID ran rampant through the building, accurate and up-to-date information from the administration was nowhere to be found, but press secretary Kayleigh McEnany did manage to give some briefings to the assembled press corps, including a short one last Thursday where she didn’t wear a mask. 

McEnany tested positive for the virus three days later.

McEnany tweeted that she “definitively had no knowledge” that Hope Hicks had tested positive for COVID earlier that day, but the conflicting and confusing timelines given from the White House through the debacle made some reporters question the statement. 

And those reporters who McEnany spoke to are justifiably livid. But they’ve recognized that the Trump White House is a place that even seven months into the pandemic doesn’t take it seriously.

“No masks on planes. Inconsistent testing. Every life reliant on a rapid testing system that doesn’t really work. And they have mocked and attacked us for pointing that out repeatedly,” one White House reporter told CNN.

“Because of this recklessness we are more worried than ever about our health,” another reporter said. 

White House staffers are also talking about how terrified they are of working in an embarrassingly reckless environment. 

These reporters and staffers would have a number of options if they were compelled to work in a corporate environment with such haphazard safety protocols. But because it’s the White House, there’s little they can do to stand up for themselves and hold the Trump administration accountable. And because Trump is president, the watchdogs in charge of protecting workers’ safety are nowhere to be found.

A dangerous workplace, limited recourse

Some hot legal takes popped up online speculating on whether the White House, or particular senior staffers, could be declared criminally negligent for putting other White House staffers and reporters in a dangerous workplace. 

Deborah Berkowitz, a former senior policy

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Concern rises for White House residence staff as their workplace emerges as a virus hot spot

His uncle, John Johnson, was also a butler, and the flouting of safety protocols that has made the White House a coronavirus hot spot has also put the career civil servants who work where President Trump and first lady Melania Trump live at risk of exposure. It has Allen puzzled and incensed.

“I would be begging my dad and uncle, ‘You need to get the hell up out of there,’ ” he says. “It’s like, ‘Get out! Get out!’ ”

The White House residence staff members are largely Black and Latino, and often elderly, according to Kate Anderson Brower, who compiled a trove of interviews with former staffers for her book, “The Residence.” Numbering 90-some full-time ushers, butlers, housekeepers, valets, florists, engineers and cooks charged with maintaining the historical house and creating a comfortable home free from prying eyes, they work more closely with the first family than perhaps anyone else in that building. These employees often keep their positions for decades and work for administration after administration, viewing their job as holding up the integrity of the White House regardless of who is in office.

“They’re supporting an institution, not a singular presidency,” says Anita McBride, who was Laura Bush’s chief of staff and is a White House historian for American University.

Discretion, too, is a key component of a residence staffer’s job. Speaking out about anything, including working conditions, can be a cause for dismissal. The New York Times reported Monday that two members of the housekeeping department who tested positive were told to use “discretion” when discussing their diagnosis.

As the residence staff has been caring for the first family, a chorus of concern has started to rise among former White House and residence staff members about whether the first family and this administration are taking care of those civil servants in return. For months, this administration has treated the White House as a bubble immune to the coronavirus, ignoring guidance from their own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by refusing to wear masks, failing to maintain social distance and relying on rapid coronavirus tests that have been shown to miss infections. With the president, the first lady, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, top aide Hope Hicks, former counselor Kellyanne Conway and an ever-growing number of administration officials testing positive for the coronavirus, that bubble has burst. Now others are trying to give voice to those working behind the scenes in that building who cannot speak on their own behalf.

“I know that people in there are scared,” says Sam Kass, head chef for the Obamas for six years. “I know that they are concerned about their own lives and their families, and feel very torn about balancing their responsibilities to their country, as they see it, and putting themselves in harm’s way.”

On Sunday, the chorus rose on behalf of the Secret Service, a growing number of whom have been voicing, in unprecedented fashion, outrage over the president’s seeming indifference to the health risks faced by

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California house cleaners, nannies, caregivers could get new workplace protections

Anabel Garcia of Santa Rosa has cleaned houses for 19 years. She’s been instructed to use harsh chemicals that impacted her vision and breathing. She’s been hired through insurance companies after California wildfires to clean houses covered in ash, while smoke hung heavy in the air. With no protective gear, she had trouble breathing and developed allergies. She’s cleaned homes where she was not allowed to use the bathroom. Now she’s cleaning homes during a pandemic, uncertain if any of her clients might be carrying the coronavirus.

As she supports two children, a father-in-law and a husband diagnosed with cancer, Garcia feels forced to accept whatever conditions her employers impose.

California occupational law does not protect her and other domestic workers. House cleaners, nannies, caregivers and others who work inside private homes are not covered by state requirements to provide safe working environments.

They could get new workplace protections from the state with SB1257, the Health and Safety for All Workers Act, which the Legislature passed last month. It’s awaiting a signature by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has not yet announced his stance, according to his office.

The act would place domestic workers under the purview of Cal/OSHA, the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, starting Jan. 1, 2022. Before then, it would require convening an advisory committee of both workers and employers to develop regulations. It would allow for state inspections of workplaces, and state investigations in response to complaints.

“Our members are not asking for anything special — just the same protections that the majority of California workers have under OSHA,” said Kimberly Alvarenga, director of the California Domestic Workers Coalition. “The heart and soul of the bill is to prevent hazards in the workplace and give dignity.”

While there was no formal opposition to the bill, which passed with bipartisan support, some Californians said they felt private homes should not be subject to the same types of workplace inspections as offices and factories.

Over 300,000 Californians work at 2 million private homes to clean, cook, tend gardens, and care for children, elders, and sick or disabled people. The indoor workers are largely low-income women, many of them immigrants, many undocumented. Often they are the primary breadwinners for their families.

Household workers are uniquely vulnerable to exploitation. They toil in solitude, behind closed doors. Cleaners and gardeners work with chemicals that can be dangerous. They’re susceptible to repetitive stress injuries. Health aides risk back strains and other conditions from having to lift people.

“Working in circumstances where you’re excluded from the law, you really suffer a lot,” said state Sen. María Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, the bill’s author. Her personal experience informs her knowledge: She grew up in a migrant farmworker family, toiling in the fields alongside her parents and siblings, with little protection from pesticides.

Cristina Ragas, a nanny, house cleaner and caregiver, hopes the governor will sign SB1257 into law.

After wildfires, learning that domestic workers were asked to clean without any protection from toxic ashes, “made me realize that they have really serious health and safety issues,” she said. “That

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Commercial Interior Design Equals a Comfortable Workplace

While cubicles have been good at making the best use of functional floor space, the feelings of being isolated from the rest of the office workers soon caused employees to look for jobs somewhere else. When it comes to commercial interior design, the inception of the cubicle was as a simple means of placing more employees into a limited amount of space while offering a small degree of privacy in which to work. The resulting problem was the intense feeling of isolation and that of being locked in a small room, which then lessened productivity.

The best conditions for commercial interior design is to begin with the building itself, designing the structure to meet the specific requirements of the business, whether a retail space, professional office or restaurant. However, since many businesses begin in an existing building, commercial interior design comes into play to affect the interior and meet the company needs as well as create an interior that is pleasant for customers.

Accessories Reflect the Business

In many commercial areas, especially those with customer turnover, a commercial interior design expert may suggest items of interest with which to hold the customer's attention while they wait for service. This will be a typical situation for a professional office such as a doctor's or dentist's office in which clients may have to spend a significant amount of time waiting to be seen. Restaurants represent are another business that will benefit from commercial interior design, giving their customers pleasant things to look at and discuss while waiting for their food.

Professional offices such as legal and financial offices will retain commercial Interior Design companies to create a professional atmosphere, which invoke a sense of trust and confidence while the visitor waits for service. The goal is to create the positive, usually staid, conservative ambiance which hints at financial success. Going to excess, however, might have the opposite effect causing the customer to think maybe he or she might be paying too much for services.

Commercial interior design experts work to create an atmosphere for customer comfort, in addition to coordinating designs and colors which will match the industry being served. These design experts can work with any business to make it more appealing to the customers they count on for their business success.

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