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Blog COVID-19 in Maryland

DC-Area Health Officials To White House Staff: Come Get A COVID-19 Test

The North face of the White House. Capital News Service photo by Tom Hausman.

Health officials across nearly the entire D.C. area are calling on people who work at the White House or anyone who attended the recent Supreme Court nomination announcement in the Rose Garden to contact their local health departments and get tested for COVID-19.

“Given the growing numbers of positive COVID cases reported from staff working in and near the White House, people who attended the event hosted by the White House on Saturday, September 26, 2020, and our preliminary understanding that there has been limited contact tracing performed to date, there may be other staff and residents at risk for exposure to COVID positive individuals,” an Oct. 8 letter from area health officials said.

The letter comes amid a spiraling coronavirus outbreak that has President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the virus, as well as a number of other administration officials.

It was signed by the health officers for D.C.; Charles, Frederick, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland; and the city of Alexandria in Virginia as well as Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties.

The letter also says anyone who is identified as a close contact of someone testing positive for the coronavirus is required to quarantine for 14 days even if they subsequently test negative.

“We strongly encourage everyone to continue following these practices to stay well, including wearing face coverings, physically distancing at a minimum of 6 feet between you and others, practicing hand washing and other sanitizing practices,” the letter stated.

The White House Rose Garden ceremony, which was attended by several of the people who later tested positive, has been referred to as a possible “super-spreader event.” Guests were seen mingling closely together and few were wearing masks.

D.C.-area lawmakers have criticized the White House for apparent lax contact tracing after the positive cases that appear to have stemmed from the ceremony.

Earlier this week, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the District government had repeatedly tried to contact the White House before D.C. Health Officer Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt finally reached an official with the White House medical office by phone to discuss the response to the outbreak.

Thursday’s letter provided contact information for each of the local health departments in the area.

The New York Times reported earlier this week that several White House officials frantically contacted the office of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan over the weekend for help getting tested for the coronavirus, apparently “unaware of the city’s numerous and rapid testing sites” in D.C.

As part of Maryland Matters’ content sharing agreement with WTOP, we feature this article from Jack Moore. Click here for the WTOP News website.