One day after President Trump returned to the White House to continue treatment for COVID-19, whipping off his mask in a dramatic gesture on live television, Democrats in the Washington, D.C. region’s congressional delegation called on him to exercise more caution regarding the health of those around him.
“We are alarmed and dismayed by the casual disregard for the health of our community, including constituents who work at the White House as staff, agents or officers of the United States Secret Service, journalists of the White House Correspondents Association, and the general public,” the lawmakers wrote.
“This is no time for publicity stunts that put people at risk, or for playing down the seriousness of this pandemic,” they added. “The American people will never trust the administration to keep them safe if the White House cannot protect its own staff.”
Lawmakers urged the president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, “to take prompt steps to help control the spread of the virus among people who work for or around the President…”
They asked the White House to disclose the date of the President’s most recent negative COVID-19 test result, so staffers can determine who is most at risk. The First Lady also tested positive last week.
The letter also sought:
- Release of the total number of positive tests among White House personnel
- “Expedited contact tracing to identify and notify anyone who came into contact with the President or infected staff within the period of time when they were contagious”
- “Cooperation with local and state health departments to assist their contact tracing efforts”
- A mandate that face coverings be worn “by all persons inside the White House, on White House grounds, and inside executive office buildings”
- Requirements that “all persons without exception” observe social distancing, and quarantine following exposure to infected individuals
- Maximum use of telework “to mitigate the public health risk to staff”
In an interview with Maryland Matters, Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D-Md.) said Trump has repeatedly “failed… to model good behavior and smart behavior and healthy behavior.”
“What offends me the most about it is that it shows such a fundamental lack of respect and sensitivity for the people around him, the people who work for him, the agencies that are trying to follow science and are upended at every turn by some directive coming out of the Oval Office,” he said.
Sarbanes predicted “a reckoning” for the president on Election Day. “I think I think the chickens are going to come home to roost because leadership does matter.”
The letter to the White House was signed by Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Reps. Sarbanes, Jamie Raskin, Anthony Brown, David Trone, Don Beyer, Gerry Connolly and Jennifer Wexton, and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, all Democrats.
Rep. Andrew P. Harris (R-Md.), a physician, did not sign the letter.
Danielle E. Gaines contributed to this report.