Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Kayleigh McEnany briefed the press on Sunday without a mask KNOWING her assistant had tested positive DAYS earlier - after shrugging off exposure to Donald Trump all week

 White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany briefed the press without wearing a  face mask on Sunday even though one of her deputies had tested positive for the coronavirus a few days earlier. 

Chad Gilmartin and Karoline Leavitt, both deputy press secretaries who report to McEnany, tested positive for COVID, according to CNN. Leavitt tested positive a few days ago and Gilmartin did within the last 24 hours, although the exact timing is unclear.

Gilmartin is a cousin of McEnany's husband, Sean Gilmart. Both Gilmartin and Leavitt joined the press shop with McEnany. Gilmartin sits outside of McEnany spacious office in the upper part of the press shop where Leavitt sits in what's called 'lower press' - the office space right behind the podium in the White House press room.

McEnany, 32, was at the White House on Friday and Sunday after President Donald Trump and senior adviser Hope Hicks, whom she'd had exposure to, tested positive for the virus.  

She wore a mask on Friday, when she stood on the South Lawn of the White House watching President Trump board Marine One for his trip to Walter Reed Medical Center, and wore one she walked to media interviews on Sunday. She took it off, however, when she talked to the press on the White House driveway. 

But officials defended the press secretary, saying she is an 'essential' worker who was expected to be on the job and noted it can be hard to hear someone who is speaking outside with a mask on.

Kayleigh McEnany briefed the press without wearing a face mask on Sunday even though her deputy tested positive for COVID a few days before

Kayleigh McEnany briefed the press without wearing a face mask on Sunday even though her deputy tested positive for COVID a few days before

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Friday with her deputy Chad Gilmartin (to her right), Gilmartin and another deputy tested positive for COVID before McEnany

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Friday with her deputy Chad Gilmartin (to her right), Gilmartin and another deputy tested positive for COVID before McEnany

White House deputy press secretary Karoline Leavitt tested positive for COVID a few days ago

White House deputy press secretary Karoline Leavitt tested positive for COVID a few days ago

White House staff took to Twitter to defend Kayleigh McEnany

White House staff took to Twitter to defend Kayleigh McEnany

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany wore a face mask on Sunday to walk to her interviews outside the White House but took it off to talk to reporters

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany wore a face mask on Sunday to walk to her interviews outside the White House but took it off to talk to reporters

Kayleigh McEnany briefed press Sunday before testing positive
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White House Director of Strategic Communications Alyssa Farah noted she, McEnany and other senior staff in the administration were deemed 'essential' by the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Homeland Security.

'One thing I want to clear up: Senior White House staff are deemed Essential Personnel by CDC & DHS. This means they are expected to continue to work - while taking precautions - until a medical recommendation otherwise is given,' she wrote on Twitter. 

Farah, 31, was also at the White House on Sunday, when she spoke with reporters without wearing a face mask. 

Several White House correspondents noted on Twitter that McEnany briefed the media without a mask on Sunday.

White House deputy chief of staff and senior communications adviser Ben Williamson pushed back, noting McEnany only answered two questions and spoke to the media for less than a minute while staying socially distanced.  

'For those asking about this: @PressSec briefly removed her mask at the mic to answer questions, was there for two questions and only 58 seconds (would not constitute ‘sustained contact’ per the CDC), and was socially distanced from reporters in the area,' he wrote on Twitter.

Deputy White House press secretary Brian Morgenstern noted it can be hard to hear someone speaking when they wear a mask.

‘We’ll wear a mask when we can’t socially distance. When you’re outside and you’re standing back from everyone it may be easier to hear if we don’t wear one,’ he told Fox News on Monday in an interview from the South Lawn of the White House.

He was not wearing a mask for the interview but told host Dana Perino he would put one on after he was finished speaking with her. 

He noted he wears a masks in the White House when he can't socially distance.

But the logistics of the White House make socially distancing virtually impossible - a fact that has been noted time and again since the pandemic began.

The hallways are cramped and small. Office space in the West Wing is at such a premium that staff assistants and junior staffers can share a desk. Senior staff usually have a spacious office but the lower tier staffers are packed in like sardines.

McEnany has a spacious office as press secretary with Farah and Morgenstern in nice sized offices outside of hers. But crammed in a room outside their offices are four assistants.  

Meanwhile, other senior staff - who have been exposed to the president and/or Hicks at various points last week - have briefed reporters without wearing face coverings.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, 61, briefed reporters on the White House drive way on Friday, also not wearing a mask.

He said it was because he tested negative that morning.  

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, 73, also briefed reporters later that day, taking off his mask to do so, saying he, too, had been tested.

White House senior staff are tested daily with the Abbott test, a rapid results test for the coronavirus that has an accuracy rate of 50 per cent to 80 per cent.  

McEnany announced Monday she has tested positive for the COVID virus, adding to the ranks of President Trump's senior staff who have contracted the disease.

She had been tested repeatedly since Trump and Hicks tested positive. She said she has no symptoms but will begin the quarantine process. 

'After testing negatively consistently, including every day since Thursday, I tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday morning while experiencing no symptoms,' she said in a statement posted to Twitter.  

'As an essential worker, I have worked diligently to provide needed information to the American People at this time. With my recent positive test, I will begin the quarantine process and continue working on behalf of the American people,' she noted. 

Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller, the president of the White House Correspondents' Association, wished McEnany the best and noted there were no additional cases among White House reporters. Three tested positive last week.

'We wish Kayleigh, the president and everyone else struggling with the virus a swift recovery. As of this moment we are not aware of additional cases among White House journalists, though we know some are awaiting test results,' he said in a statement.

'We strongly encourage our members to continue following CDC guidance on mask-wearing and distancing — especially when at the White House — and urge journalists to seek testing if they were potentially exposed,' he added.


Deputy White House press secretary Brian Morgenstern wears a face mask to speak to reporters in the White House drive way on Monday

Deputy White House press secretary Brian Morgenstern wears a face mask to speak to reporters in the White House drive way on Monday

Alyssa Farah, White House Director of Strategic Communications, speaks to members of the media outside the West Wing of the White House on Sunday without wearing a face covering

Alyssa Farah, White House Director of Strategic Communications, speaks to members of the media outside the West Wing of the White House on Sunday without wearing a face covering

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows talks to members of the media outside the White House on Friday and said he didn't wear face mask because he tested negative for COVID

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows talks to members of the media outside the White House on Friday and said he didn't wear face mask because he tested negative for COVID

White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow also briefed reporters outside the White House on Friday and took off his mask to do so, saying he'd been tested for COVID

White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow also briefed reporters outside the White House on Friday and took off his mask to do so, saying he'd been tested for COVID

White House Chief of Staff says Trump is in good spirits
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White House reporters wear masks during McEnany's briefings and Trump's press conference even when she and the president did not.   

McEnany was also at last Saturday's announcement of Judge Amy Coney Barrett as President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, an event quickly becoming a ground zero for the White House after 15 people who were there tested positive for COVID. McEnany is the 13th.

Leavitt and Gilmartin were also at that event. 

She note she does not believe she got the virus from a member of the media and reiterated she did not know about Hicks' positive test result when she held her press briefing at the White House on Thursday. 

'No reporters, producers or members of the press are listed as close contacts by the White House Medical Unit. Moreover, I definitely had no knowledge of Hope Hicks’ diagnosis prior to holding a White House press briefing on Thursday,' she said.

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