Even as President Donald Trump remained infected with the novel coronavirus and contagious, his top aide said he is eager to return to work in the Oval Office and could do so as early as Wednesday, disregarding isolation rules and putting staffers at increased risk.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters that safety precautions would be taken to accommodate the president’s request and said that those who have direct contact with the president at this time are wearing “full PPE, masks, goggles, and the like.”
“If he decides to go to the Oval, we’ve got safety protocols there that are not only from the PPE standpoint, but from a ventilation standpoint, in the open where we can actually work to that end as well,” Meadows said, who removed his mask before while taking questions from reporters at a distance Wednesday morning.
The president’s push to return to the Oval Office comes as he is supposed to be observing a period of self-isolation, in accordance with CDC guidelines.
The White House had outfitted the Map Room and Diplomatic Reception Room in the White House residence as remote working spaces for the president during his period of expected isolation after his made-for-TV return from three nights in the hospital on Monday.
Meadows, who has been at the president’s side on a daily basis throughout his illness, said he continues to test negative for the virus.
While Meadows expressed confidence that the president’s desired return to the Oval Office could be carried out safely with those around the president outfitted in full PPE, it was unclear whether the president has also been wearing a mask while around others and if he would do so when and if he does return to the Oval Office, while still infected with the virus.
Some West Wing staffers who have remained healthy despite the recent outbreak among the ranks of the administration have continued to come into work at the White House in recent days.
The president is so eager to return to his official presidential workspace, Meadows said, that he wanted to do so Tuesday.
After the president’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the president actually had gone to the Oval Office on Tuesday, the White House issued a clarification, saying that was not the case.
“While the President wanted to be in the Oval Office yesterday, he was not there—he stayed back in the residence working from there. Safety preparations have been underway in the event he moves to working out of the Oval in the coming days,” White House spokesman Ben Williamson said.
Despite the fact that the president is still infected with the coronavirus and his medical team has cautioned he is “not out of the woods” yet, Meadows described the president as being in “very good health.”
“Yeah, he’s doing real well. We actually spent some time together yesterday working very hard from the residence, and I can tell you that he’s fully engaged and feeling great,” Meadows said during an interview on FOX News Wednesday.
The president’s physician also issued a memorandum mid-day reporting that the president said “I feel great” and had been symptom free for 24 hours. He said that the president’s vitals and oxygen levels remained stable and within a normal range.
Since his highly choreographed return to the White House Monday evening, the president has remained out of public view.
During his three-night stay at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the White House released what appeared to be staged photos of the president at work in his presidential hospital suite, distributed taped video messages from the president’s Twitter account, and at one point, the president even took a surprise trip outside the hospital to drive by supporters who gathered on the road outside the hospital as a show of support for the ailing presidents.
On Tuesday, the president had been said to be contemplating addressing the nation in some form, either formally or through another taped video message, but that never came to pass.