WASHINGTON – His press secretary once described President Donald Trump as the “most tested man in America” when it came to COVID-19. And variations on that message were the White House ready response any time critics questioned the president's lax approach to following guidelines for avoiding the novel coronavirus.
But that testing operation proved woefully insufficient in protecting the president and those who work for him at the White House, as evidenced by a string of positive tests over the past week for Trump, his wife and others in their orbit.
Trump demonstrated in dramatic fashion that relying on testing alone isn’t enough to create a safe bubble. Mask wearing and social distancing are other key ingredients for preventing the spread of COVID-19, and both have often been in short supply at the White House.
From the earliest days of the virus, Trump has provided conflicting advice on wearing a mask, noting that federal health experts were recommending them, but adding that “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”
At another point, he said that “maybe they’re great, and maybe they’re just good. Maybe they’re not so good.”
And just last week, he poked at Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden on the topic: “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet ways from them, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”
While the White House has not insisted on masks, it has insisted on testing. Anyone in close proximity to the president or vice president is tested prior to the day's events, including reporters. The White House says the president is also tested regularly, as are his most senior aides.
“He’s tested more than anyone, multiple times a day. And we believe that he’s acting appropriately,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in July when asked whether the president was sending mixed messages on mask wearing. McEnany herself tested positive for the virus on Monday, she said.