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White House coronavirus testing protocols continue to evolve

Trump reiterated he wants to slow the pace of testing, even as he also praised the overall system

The White House has changed some coronavirus protocols as Washington enters Phase Two of reopening.
The White House has changed some coronavirus protocols as Washington enters Phase Two of reopening. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The mixed messages from President Donald Trump and others in his administration about the rate of coronavirus testing has extended to White House operations.

The president said Tuesday he wasn’t kidding about wanting to slow the pace of coronavirus testing, but he also praised the overall system.

“We have got the greatest testing program anywhere in the world. We test better than anybody in the world. Our tests are the best in the world, and we have the most of them,” Trump said Tuesday before leaving the White House for Arizona. “By having more cases, it sounds bad, but actually what it is, is we’re finding people. Many of those people aren’t sick or very little. You know, they may be young people.”

He also cited the low mortality rate for the coronavirus in the United States.

The president made the original claim about wanting the testing to slow down during a rally Saturday night in Tulsa, Okla., and it seemed at least the next day that White House officials may have been following the president’s lead.

Reporters who traveled in the presidential motorcade for the president’s Sunday round of golf at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., were not given tests before departing the White House, though there were two rounds of temperature checks, once at a tent outside the gate and again when getting ready to board vans in the motorcade.

While there was no expectation the journalists in Sunday’s traveling press pool would even lay eyes on the president, that possibility can never be ruled out.

On Monday, reporters at the White House said the temperature screening tent was gone, but the rapid tests that had become common for reporters and others in contact with the president were taking place.

Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., said Tuesday that she received a test before boarding Air Force One to accompany the president on his visit to Arizona.

Temperature screenings have also continued for people coming into contact with the president.

“In conjunction with Washington, D.C. entering Phase Two today, the White House is scaling back complex-wide temperature checks,” White House spokesman Judd Deere explained Monday. “In addition to social distancing, hand sanitizer, regular deep cleaning of all workspaces, and voluntary facial coverings, every staff member and guest in close proximity to the president and vice president is still being temperature checked, asked symptom histories, and tested for COVID-19.”

The nation’s capital entered the second phase of reopening on Monday.

On Wednesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda will visit the White House. It will be the first visit for a head of state since the COVID-19 pandemic and its related travel restrictions.

A senior administration official said that as part of the precautions being taken for the visit, everyone involved would receive tests.

“The White House is continuing to implement very high health and safety procedures for all visitors. All members of both the Polish and U.S. delegations are going to be tested for their protection, as well as for the protection of both Presidents Trump and Duda,” the official said. “But I’m not going to get further into the details than that.”

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