White House Official Says Masks Still Not Mandatory Despite Donald Trump Positive Coronavirus Diagnosis

The Trump administration announced that face masks are still optional within the White House on Friday afternoon, despite the president and First Lady's diagnoses with COVID-19. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump both announced that they had contracted the coronavirus in the early hours of Friday morning. According to a report by The Associated Press, this will not impact life within the White House itself at all.

A senior White House official told AP that facial coverings are "a personal choice" as far as policy at the capital goes. The administration also has no plans to switch to a different coronavirus testing method, despite the failure of its current system to detect the virus in senior adviser Hope Hicks. The official spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity but continued to defend the protocols within the White House.

The Trump administration has taken a generally relaxed approach to the coronavirus pandemic thus far — holding large events and campaign rallies, and not requiring guests to wear masks unless they so choose. This policy will not be changing in light of the recent string of new cases within the White House, despite the overwhelming evidence that face coverings help prevent the spread of the virus.

The president himself has been disdainful of face masks, refusing to wear one until several months into the pandemic, and often mocking political opponents and journalists for wearing them. However, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as international public health organizations, have recommended them as a critical safety measure to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The White House is also not changing the methods it uses to test for coronavirus among its staff, despite the apparent failure this week. Senior administration adviser Hope Hicks was reportedly experiencing coronavirus symptoms, yet still tested negative for the coronavirus. Experts now suspect that Hicks might have been the one to spread the virus to others in the White House, including Trump.

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Since Trump tested positive, several others whom he has come into contact with have also tested positive, indicating an outbreak centered around his staff. Republican lawmakers, party officials, and staffers at the presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio, have all contracted the virus. So far, former Vice President Joe Biden has not tested positive, nor has debate moderator Chris Wallace.

Trump remains hospitalized at Walter Reed Military Medical Center under close observation. On Saturday morning, his doctors told reporters that his condition is improving and he is doing well.