From the pandemic’s earliest days, President Donald Trump was of two minds on coronavirus.

In public he was dismissive and belittling of the virus, and those who feared it. In private, for all his bravado, he acted like a man who dreaded catching it.

He told his then-chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to “stay the hell home” from a trip to India in February because he didn’t want to be around Mulvaney and his lingering cough, according to people familiar with the trip. Even before the virus, Trump was known to dart to the other side of the room if someone sneezed. He used medical wipes labeled “not for use on skin” to scrub his hands, along with the ever-present Purell.

Yet at the White House he shunned one of the simplest and most effective ways of preventing transmission — wearing a mask. “Take that f—ing thing off,” he demanded more than once to aides who showed up wearing masks in the early days of the virus, when he’d been told they weren’t a fail-safe. “It doesn’t look good.”

Mirroring his administration’s fitful efforts to combat the virus outside its walls, testing within the White House was viewed by some who worked there as ineffective. Some aides believed the White House didn’t do enough to take basic safety precautions and wondered whether the public would be kept in the dark about any outbreak inside its walls.

Walking into one coronavirus task force meeting in the Situation Room with Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed alarm at the crowded space, according to several people present for the episode in the spring.

“We’re violating all the protocols!” Mnuchin said, dragging his chair away from the table. Pence began to orchestrate a rearrangement of the seating, with some attendees leaving the room to sit in an overflow area or join by telephone.

After that, the task force meetings were more socially distanced but masks at that point weren’t regularly used in the Situation Room even among the doctors, three people familiar with the gatherings said.

When Trump’s aide Hope Hicks fell ill on Sept. 30, even some people closest to Trump — including his oldest son and namesake, Donald Jr., his son Eric, and daughter Tiffany, who all traveled with Hicks to the first presidential debate in Cleveland the day before — weren’t notified, according to people familiar with the events. They hadn’t been close enough to her on the plane to fall into the strict White House contact tracing protocols, defined as alerting people who had been within six feet of the infected person for at least 15 minutes in the last 48 hours.

News Source: Livemint


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