WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump insisted Monday his administration has “met the moment” and “prevailed” on coronavirus testing, even as the White House itself became a potent symbol of the risk facing Americans everywhere by belatedly ordering everyone who enters the West Wing to wear a mask.
Trump addressed a Rose Garden audience filled with mask-wearing administration officials, some appearing publicly with face coverings for the first time during the outbreak, after two aides tested positive for COVID-19 late last week. The startling sight served only to further highlight the challenge the president faces in instilling confidence in a nation still reeling from the pandemic.
Trump himself, not wearing a mask, sought to emphasize to the American people the steps being taken to ensure their safety — in hopes that will coax them to resume normal activities.
Shortage of coronavirus testing has long been a sore spot for the president, but he insisted anew that everyone who wants a test can get one. The pledge, first issued by Trump more than two months ago, comes as governors across the country continue to call on the federal government to do more to boost supply to meet the requirements needed to begin “reopening” the nation.
The upbeat message was undercut by the new protective measures implemented to keep Trump safe, evidenced by the absence of Vice President Mike Pence and three of the nation's top medical experts, who were in various states of isolation after two cases of COVID-19 were confirmed among staffers in one of the most-protected complexes in America.
A memo to staff Monday directed "everyone who enters the West Wing to wear a mask or facial covering.” Staff will be allowed to remove their face coverings if they sit at least six feet apart from their colleagues. The directive apparently doesn't apply to the president.
Monday's briefing was meant to highlight the availability of COVID-19 testing as the White House seeks to convince Americans the country is safely reopening.
“They should all be able to get a test right now," Trump said, even though experts say there is no capacity for testing on that scale. Officials later clarified that “everybody who needs a test can get a test."