A former White House insider is providing insight into the protocols taken at the White House leading up to the COVID-19 outbreak and about the need to be as forthcoming as possible about infections.
Joe Grogan, a former Trump White House domestic policy council director and former member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, told WTOP he doesn’t fault the White House for, in his words, “taking their time to get the numbers right” on infections but does believe there should be transparency.
“They owe it to the staff, and they owe it to the American people to be transparent about the number of people who ended up positive and the number of people who were tested,” Grogan said.
The situation first came to light after word that Trump aide and former White House communications director Hope Hicks tested positive for the virus. Then, hours later, the president tweeted he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Grogan said the White House was “very nervous and very scared about the virus hitting the [White House] complex” because there was “no testing” at the time.
But the White House has its challenges.
“I’m surprised there weren’t more infections sooner,” Grogan said.
“It’s very difficult to work and understand what people are saying when you’re wearing a mask. The social distancing in the White House is very difficult. The hallways are cramped; the conference rooms are tiny; your offices are tiny.”
Grogan said there was a lot of “vigilance,” and “safeguards” early on, and officials were “pretty zealous about anybody who has the sniffles had to go home.”
But Grogan believes the tipping point came with the actual advent of reliable testing, coupled with the physical spacing inside the complex.
“I do think at that point people were thinking, ‘Listen, there’s no way to social distance anyway,’ and I think there was a relaxation,” Grogan said.
Questions remain about how the White House is trying to track down the origin of the outbreak.
As far as information sharing and gathering, Grogan said he doesn’t fault the White House for “taking its time to get the numbers right.”
“You have an outbreak and something went wrong in the protocols. There’s no question about that,” said Grogan. “They need to do a deep dive, and I’m sure they are, about where ‘patient zero’ came from and if there was more than one and how it spread.”
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said her administration has so far been unsuccessful in reaching out to the White House to offer help with contact tracing.
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