The White House has told staff that if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, they should stay home. The advice comes a full three days after President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the virus.
An all-staff email sent on Sunday urges anyone with COVID symptoms to “please stay home” and “do not come to work.” The email also tells any staff with symptoms to “immediately contact your primary care provider” and “inform [your] supervisors.”
The email was obtained by New York Magazine‘s Washington Correspondent Olivia Nuzzi. She took to Twitter to point out that the advice came only after the president was admitted to Walter Reed Medical Center with the disease.
“Three days after the public learned about President Trump’s COVID-19 infection and the viruses spread through the White House and federal government, WH staff finally received an email telling them what to do if they have symptoms,” Nuzzi wrote.
The email says, in part: “If you or your colleagues believe that you should be practicing telework, or have questions about your ability to do so, please contact your supervisor.”
Nuzzi also noted confusion and even anger at the White House about the way the administration handled the president’s diagnosis. There has been significant criticism about mixed messaging surrounding his illness.
“[A] senior White House official was angry that staff had been kept in the dark, that nobody had been told what to do about the virus spreading rapidly in their own workplace,” Nuzzi said.
There was criticism of how the Trump administration was dealing with COVID-19 even before the president’s diagnosis. His decision to mock former Vice President Joe Biden for wearing a mask at the first presidential debate contrasted with reports that mask-wearing isn’t required at the White House and there are no plans to make it mandatory.
“Our standard protocol is CDC best practices and recommendations,” a White House official told Axioson October 2. “Facial coverings are recommended but not required. There’s hand sanitizing stations located throughout the complex, frequent washing of hands and good hygiene is strongly recommended and social distancing is encouraged. So, I don’t foresee those things changing.”
In a video posted on Sunday, Trump said he’d learned more about COVID since his admission to Walter Reed. He also briefly left the hospital for a short drive where he waved at supporters.
“It’s been a very interesting journey. I learned a lot about COVID. I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school. This isn’t the ‘let’s read the books’ school,” Trump said in a video posted on his Twitter account.
“And I get it, and I understand it, and it’s a very interesting thing, and I’m going to be letting you know about it,” he said.