search

Trump says White House staffer tests positive, day after Mideast peace pageant

Press secretary, chief of staff silent on reporters’ claims they’ve been told of a number of infections, shortly after maskless masses packed South Lawn for Abraham Accords event

An audience watches as US President Donald Trump speaks from the Truman Balcony at the White House during the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords where the countries of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates normalize ties with Israel, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, September 15, 2020 (SAUL LOEB / AFP)
An audience watches as US President Donald Trump speaks from the Truman Balcony at the White House during the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords where the countries of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates normalize ties with Israel, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, September 15, 2020 (SAUL LOEB / AFP)

US President Donald Trump confirmed reports Wednesday that at least one White House staffer had tested positive for coronavirus, a day after the historic signing of treaties between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on the South Lawn.

“I heard about it this morning, at a very small level,” Trump said at a press conference, when asked about reports that several staff members had been infected.

“It’s not anybody who was around me,” Trump said, adding that it was “one person.” He did not identify the staffer.

Earlier, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany refused to comment on multiple reports on the matter. “I don’t share people’s personal medical information,” she said.

She added she’s “seen the reporting out there, but again I’m not here to give people’s personal [information]. In the past, when we’ve discussed a case, unfortunately that individual’s name was leaked to the media.”

But potential infections among staff would be particularly pertinent a day after hundreds of dignitaries, including the Israeli prime minister and the foreign ministers of Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, converged on the premises to sign a historic accord.

An audience watches at the White House during the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords where the countries of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates normalize ties with Israel, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, September 15, 2020 (video screenshot)

Earlier Raquel Krähenbühl, White House correspondent for Brazil’s Globo News, tweeted that she had been told of a “couple of positives” among staff.

When Krähenbühl questioned Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on the matter, he also declined to comment, saying: “I don’t comment on any health-related issues as it relates to the White House ever.”

Independent journalist Travis Akers also claimed that the White House press pool had been informed of infections among staff, though he did not provide sourcing.

Foreign Affairs Minister of Bahrain Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, and US President Donald Trump participate in the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords on the South Lawn of the White House on September 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)

The Tuesday ceremony saw Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet US President Donald Trump, along with the Bahraini and UAE foreign ministers. None wore face masks.

The event was attended by hundreds, with footage showing few in the front rows wearing any facial coverings.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan wave from the Truman Balcony at the White House after they participated in the signing of the Abraham Accords, where the countries of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recognize Israel, in Washington, DC, September 15, 2020. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)

Israelis attending the event were instructed to remain in a special capsule apart from other attendees, but many nonetheless were seen breaking guidelines.

Also Wednesday a report in the Haaretz newspaper said Israel’s official delegation to Washington failed to maintain agreed-upon health guidelines during the trip.

Delegation organizers had sought a complete waiving of quarantine for the delegation, despite the US’s high infection rate, the paper reported, citing unnamed sources in the Health Ministry. Eventually it was agreed that the prime minister and those who accompanied him on the trip would remain in quarantine for five days upon their return instead of the 14 normally required for travelers from the US.

However, a senior health official told the newspaper the delegation had not lived up to the bargain throughout the White House ceremony — with delegation members packed together in the audience, where many eschewed masks.

Netanyahu was not seen wearing a mask at any point throughout the day.

read more:
comments