DC-area lawmakers: White House coronavirus spread ‘out of control’

Members of Congress from the D.C. area, saying they are “alarmed and dismayed” by the Trump administration’s response to the spread of the coronavirus at the White House, are calling for expedited contact tracing to help determine who is at risk.

The Democratic lawmakers, from D.C., Maryland and Virginia, issued a statement Tuesday highly critical of the White House for not being more responsive to local health concerns.

“Daily announcements of new infections among the political, press and custodial staff show that the coronavirus outbreak is out of control,” the lawmakers said in the statement.

U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., one of the lawmakers who signed the statement, said the White House is potentially putting the public’s health at risk.

“We’re very concerned about the people we represent being exposed to the coronavirus because of the reckless White House actions,” Beyer told WTOP.

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The lawmakers are calling for White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to take several actions, including:

  • 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 White House staff members when they were contagious.
  • Cooperate with state and local health departments to assist in contact tracing efforts.

The lawmakers said the White House needs to be more transparent and that many of their constituents feel as if they are being left in the dark.

“We represent the people of the National Capital Region. 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,” their statement said.

The statement is signed by Beyer; House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md; Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.; and U.S. Reps. John Sarbanes, D-Md.; Gerry Connolly, D-Va.; Jamie Raskin, D-Md.; Anthony Brown, D-Md.; Jennifer Wexton, D-Va.; and David Trone, D-Md.

The White House has defended its handling of the situation, saying that health safety protocols are in place and that it is conducting contact tracing.

But there has apparently been no contact tracing in collaboration with local health departments.

In a separate letter, Norton wrote to the president’s personal physician, Dr. Sean Conley, expressing concern.

“When a D.C. resident tests positive in D.C. from their health care provider or at a community testing center, that information is shared with D.C. Health, and the District can conduct contact tracing,” Norton said. “However, when a White House staffer tests positive from one of your tests, this information is not shared with D.C.”

Mitchell Miller

Mitchell Miller has worked at WTOP since 1996, as a producer, editor, reporter and Senior News Director. After working "behind the scenes," coordinating coverage and reporter coverage for years, Mitchell moved back to his first love -- reporting. He is now WTOP's Capitol Hill reporter.

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