WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump hosted nearly 20 House Republicans at the White House on Friday to talk about rebuilding the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic ― and not one of them wore a mask or practiced social distancing.
Photos from the meeting show lawmakers casually mingling and talking in close range in the State Dining Room without masks on before the president arrives, also without a mask. Once he comes in, they sit at a large table with some space between them, but not the recommended 6 feet.
The press pool reporter in attendance, Brett Samuels of The Hill, noted in his reports that lawmakers’ temperatures were taken heading into the meeting. But not having a temperature does not confirm whether someone has the coronavirus.
Every reporter and every photographer in the meeting was wearing a mask, according to Samuels, as was the White House stenographer. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and three other press aides with her were not. Some White House staff in the room wore masks. None of the lawmakers did.
“Multiple lawmakers had their hands in their faces at various times or wiped their brows or noses with their hands,” reads the pool report. “A few had to pick up the microphones and place them closer before they spoke.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) defended the fact that none of them were wearing masks or social distancing. Per the pool report, he said everyone had been tested already and suggested nobody in the room had the virus “unless it’s someone in the media.”
House Republicans in the meeting included Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Kelly Armstrong (N.D.), Andy Barr (Ky.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Ted Budd (N.C.), Dan Crenshaw (Texas), Warren Davidson (Ohio), Greg Murphy (N.C.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Mark Green (Tenn.), Mike Johnson (La.), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Debbie Lesko (Ariz.), Devin Nunes (Calif.), Scott Perry (Pa.), Guy Reschenthaler (Pa.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), Lee Zeldin (N.Y.) and Gohmert.
Asked by a reporter about new steps to guard against the coronavirus in the White House, Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said the White House ”is the safest place you can come to″ and said every member of Congress was tested when they arrived.
But even testing negative for the coronavirus doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have it. The viral test can give false negatives. The Abbott ID NOW test, for example, which the White House uses, may have a false-negative rate as high as nearly 15%.
In the early stages of infection, it is also possible that the virus simply won’t be detected. Additionally, a person with COVID-19 can be contagious 48 to 72 hours before feeling symptoms, and emerging research suggests that people may be most likely to spread the virus during this period.
The White House does not seem like the safest place to be, despite Meadows’s claim. Trump’s meeting with GOP lawmakers came on the same day that Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, tested positive for COVID-19.
Miller is married to White House senior adviser Stephen Miller.
The White House also confirmed on Thursday that a personal military valet for Trump ― who comes into close contact with both him and his family and serves him food ― tested positive for the virus.
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