As President Donald Trump urges businesses across the country to reopen and Americans to return to work, he and his administration are projecting a sense of normalcy after months of disruption because of the coronavirus.
Trump is spending the week meeting with governors and restaurant executives at the White House, while Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Florida to meet with Gov. Ron DeSantis and deliver personal protective equipment to a nursing home.
Not far behind the scenes of the West Wing, however, normalcy is still a ways off. Trump’s own top staffers are increasingly working from home. The White House has started to schedule more meetings by teleconference after two staffers tested positive for Covid-19, including one of the president’s military valets. Aides are now required to wear face masks around the White House, and in-person meetings, if they occur at all, are held in the largest conference rooms possible.
Even the White House mess, where staffers grab lunch and coffee, has shut down and is open only at the takeout window.
The most prominent office in America — with all of the testing, resources and doctors it needs — is still struggling to keep its employees and leaders safe, even as more than a dozen states reopen businesses, restaurants, parks and beaches. The White House’s struggles and its ongoing revision of its health measures offer a window into the myriad challenges that thousands of companies and employers face as they consider bringing back nonessential workers.
The hallways of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, across the street from the White House, are mostly empty, senior administration officials say — except for the vice president. He led meetings in that building last week in a secure room by phone instead of holding court in the situation room, after his press secretary, Katie Miller, tested positive for the coronavirus.