Two cafeterias that serve White House staffers have been shuttered after an employee contracted the coronavirus, according to multiple reports, which come as the president mulls a mandatory mask rule for the executive mansion.
Eateries in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and the New Executive Office Building – both part of the greater White House complex and located near the West Wing – were closed on Wednesday night after the employee tested positive, the New York Times reported. It is unclear what position the employee held, or whether the person works in either cafeteria.
The White House noted it is now tracing the employee’s contacts to ensure they didn’t pass it on to other workers, sending an email to officials and staffers apparently attempting to tamp down on concerns.
“There is no reason for panic or alarm,” the White House said in the message, first obtained by NBC News. “The White House Medical Unit has already conducted contact tracing and based off of their interviews, they have determined that no [Eisenhower Building] staff should self-quarantine due to exposure.”
Staffers were advised to monitor themselves for symptoms, however, and to stay home if they felt ill.
The closures were reported hours after US President Donald Trump indicated the White House may soon impose a mandatory face mask rule to stem the spread of the virus, telling reporters at a press briefing earlier on Wednesday he would “make a decision over the next 24 hours.” The move would echo a recently re-imposed mask rule throughout the nation’s capital, with DC Mayor Muriel Bowser threatening $1,000 fines for those caught without a face covering in public.
Trump’s stance on masks has somewhat shifted as of late. Though he has frequently appeared without them at public events and at times questioned their effectiveness, he has repeatedly praised face coverings in recent days, even tweeting that wearing a mask is a sign of patriotism earlier this week. At Wednesday’s presser, the president explained that while he had “no problem” wearing a mask, he believes they should only be used when necessary, such as in healthcare settings or when social distancing is not possible.
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