Revealed: At least 34 people connected to the White House are infected with COVID according to leaked FEMA report – but the government hasn’t told staff the true scale of the outbreak
- The White House has refused to say how many people are infected
- On Wednesday ABC News obtained a leaked memo circulated among FEMA
- The memo said that 34 people were known to be infected, without naming them
- On Wednesday evening it was reported White House security office chief was ill
- It was unclear whether he was among the 34 people mentioned in the report
- Staff members have spoken anonymously about their fears inside the house
- The Trump administration insist that all infection protocols are being followed
A leaked memo has revealed that the White House coronavirus outbreak is more serious than was feared, with 34 White House staffers confirmed infected by Wednesday.
Those infected were not named in the report, obtained by ABC News and distributed among senior leadership at FEMA – the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Until now, only a handful of cases had been confirmed by the White House – the president and first lady, advisor Hope Hicks and speechwriter Stephen Miller, campaign manager Bill Stepien, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and several of the communications team.
The memo significantly increases the scale of the outbreak.
It says that ‘a senior adviser to the president’ is among those infected.
Hope Hicks and Stephen Miller, both senior aides to the president, have tested positive in recent days, as have Kellyanne Conway, a former senior adviser, and Chris Christie, helping advise on debate preparation.
Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, who on Monday tested positive, has repeatedly said that they would not publish the tally of those infected, citing privacy concerns.
The White House is pictured being cleaned, as on Wednesday 34 were said to be infected
White House officials have repeatedly refused to confirm how many have tested positive
On Wednesday evening yet another official, the head of the White House security office, was revealed to have been in hospital since late September, gravely ill battling the virus.
The news, as with the infection of Hicks, was revealed by the media rather than a White House announcement.
The FEMA report will add to concerns among White House staffers that they have no idea of the scale of the problem.
‘My heart goes out to everyone touched by this virus, from those at the White House, especially the Secret Service and residence staff whose service ought never be taken for granted, to all those names and stories most of us will unfortunately never know,’ tweeted former first lady Michelle Obama.
Donald Trump, pictured on Wednesday, was back in the Oval Office despite having COVID
THURSDAY – Mask free while giving her briefing (left) and FRIDAY (right) masked after Trump’s positive diagnosis. She is shown, right, with her deputy, Chad Gilmartin, who tested positive on Saturday. She still went to work the next day and briefed reporters without her mask on
SUNDAY: McEnany took her mask off to speak to reporters on Sunday. She knew by then that her assistant had also tested positive with the virus, but she did test positive until Monday morning. McEnany wore the mask while walking around (right) throughout the rest of the day
Many have learned about positive tests from media reports and several were exposed, without their knowledge, to people the White House already knew could be contagious.
Indeed, it took until late Sunday night, nearly three full days after Trump’s diagnosis, for the White House to send a staff-wide note in response.
Even then, it did not acknowledge the outbreak.
‘As a reminder,’ read the letter from the White House Management Office, ‘if you are experiencing any symptoms … please stay home and do not come to work.’
Staff who develop symptoms were advised to ‘go home immediately’ and contact their doctors rather than the White House Medical Unit.
When President Donald Trump returned to the White House on Tuesday, he immediately removed his mask before entering the building – leading by example and adding to the unease that he may put staffers, complex workers and Secret Service agents at risk.
Several who spoke with The Associated Press expressed concern over the cavalier attitude the White House has taken when it comes to masks and distancing. Colleagues, they said, are angry, but feel there’s little they can do.
One said it felt like he and some of his colleagues had been spared only by a measure of good luck.
Trump was driven to see his supporters on Sunday night, waving at them from the SUV
Trump walked up the steps of the White House then paused to take his face mask off
Others noted the difference between facing outside threats they have trained for — a gun, a bomb or a biohazard — and being put at additional risk because of behavior they characterized as reckless at times.
The Secret Service has refused to disclose how many of its employees have tested positive or have had to quarantine, citing privacy and security.
But in the midst of the election, thousands of agents are on duty and anyone who tests positive can easily be subbed out, officials have said.
Secret Service spokeswoman Julia McMurray said the agency takes ‘every precaution to keep our protectees, employees and families, and the general public, safe and healthy.’
On Tuesday, White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah also said the White House was ‘taking precautions’ to stem the spread and that those still working in the West Wing ‘feel comfortable.’
But on Wednesday, images emerged showing several White House aides interacting in close proximity with one another without masks.
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