White House senior adviser Kevin Hassett said Sunday it’s “scary” to go to work in the West Wing after two Trump administration staffers tested positive for COVID-19 within the past week.
Hassett, who formerly served as President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” he practices “aggressive social distancing” and will “wear a mask when I feel it’s necessary.”
“It is scary to go to work,” he said. “I was not part of the White House in March. I think that I’d be a lot safer if I was sitting at home instead of going to the West Wing. But, you know, it’s a time when people have to step up and serve their country.”
“We’re lucky at the White House that we have the best medical team on earth to help protect us, and that is some comfort,” he added. “But I think everybody knows that going to work” in the White House is “a little bit risky. But you have to do it, because you have to serve your country and there are a lot of things you can’t do except there.”
Hassett said that’s why White House doctors “are so careful about testing everybody every day.”
“It’s because they know they are going into relatively cramped quarters,” he added.
Hassett’s comments came after Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller, who is married to top Trump administration official Stephen Miller, and one of Trump’s personal valets both tested positive for COVID-19 last week. The White House has ramped up testing from once weekly to daily for administration officials, including Trump and Pence, who White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said both tested negative for the novel coronavirus on Friday.
Miller said she tested positive Friday after testing negative the day before. An administration official told NBC News Friday night that her husband tested negative for the virus. A White House official told NBC News that Miller was at the White House in the morning before testing positive, adding that she was showing “symptoms.”
Meanwhile, after learning one of his valets had tested positive, Trump became “lava level mad” at his staff and said he doesn’t feel it is doing all it can to protect him, a person close to the White House said. That source said the unknowingly infected valet is close to the president throughout the day, though Trump said Thursday he’d had “very little contact, personal contact, with this gentleman.”
On Miller, Trump told reporters “she tested positive out of the blue.”
Some White House aides in contact with her had already been retested Friday, with Trump saying in the afternoon, “This is why the whole concept of tests aren’t necessarily great.”
“The tests are perfect but something can happen between a test where it’s good and something happens,” he continued.
That same day, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said the White House “is probably the safest place you can come to.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people who recently had close contact with someone who came down with COVID-19 should stay at home for 14 days following their last exposure, should check their temperature twice daily and stay away from those who are at a high risk of getting ill.
Three members of the White House coronavirus task force are self-quarantining after the potential exposure, administration officials said Saturday.
Those officials are Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Dr. Stephen Hahn, head of the Food and Drug Administration.
Fauci is expected to mostly work from home during that span but plans to testify in person before the Senate next week. Hahn and Redfield plan to testify via videoconference.
Larry Kudlow, the White House’s top economic adviser, told ABC’s “This Week” that “there may be” more staffers who opt to self-quarantine.
“I don’t want to rule anything in or rule anything out,” he said. “At the moment, there’s daily testing, as you may know, for people who come into contact with the president and the vice president. Everybody wants to be safe. We’re going to do the best we can. We will follow the rules and guidelines of the White House medical unit.”
Speaking with CNN’s “State of the Union,” Hassett said, “We’ve all been exposing ourselves to risks under the best guidance we could have to stay safe, but we’re willing to take that chance because we love our country.”
“And, you know, knock on wood, I have tested negative the last two days,” Hassett said when asked if he’s felt any symptoms, adding, “I think it’s going to be a few days of watch and wait and make sure.”