‘You make fun’: Trump’s campaign office refuses masks, social distancing

The campaign’s lack of security protections was visible during Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the office last month, during which he posed for a photo with more than 70 campaign staff members close together without covering their faces. , a picture that angered local officials, who called on Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to take action and enforce state public health orders on universal indoor masking and social distancing. But Northam, a Democrat, eventually refused to do so.

“The governor’s office did not want to be bogged down in a political fight,” said one individual familiar with those discussions, adding that the Northam team concluded that his orders should be seen as a guide. “They basically dodged a fight with the administration over this.” Northam’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Facing no threat of enforcement, the Trump campaign has continued to set its own rules on coronavirus protection, the people said, requesting anonymity to speak freely. For example, staff have been told to wear masks outside the office, in case reporters see them, but have been instructed that it is acceptable to remove them in the office, the people said, adding that the staff is also joking. publicly about The risk of coronavirus and minimize the threat of pandemic.

“You scoff if you wear a mask,” said one person. “There is social pressure not to do it.”

The individuals described an environment in which campaign staff have been discouraged from telling their colleagues if they were exposed to the virus, particularly after a series of negative headlines about the outcome of several positive tests by campaign staff before the rally. from last month’s campaign in Tulsa, Okla. Officials have encouraged them to quietly quarantine when they are believed to have come in contact with the virus.

The latest scare: Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top campaign fundraiser and girlfriend of President Donald Trump’s oldest son, tested positive for coronavirus last week. While Guilfoyle had been close to campaign staff at recent events, she had been an infrequent visitor to headquarters, a person with knowledge of the situation said.

Citing evidence that the coronavirus can spread rapidly in confined spaces, the Centers for Disease Control in May instructed companies and other organizations to implement social distancing and other protections for employees, such as the use of partitions. Northam has also repeatedly issued orders that organizations must modify office spaces and encourage telecommuting, and the governor on June 30 reiterated that there is a requirement throughout Virginia to use facial covers indoors.

The Trump campaign defended his approach to office security.

“The campaign takes the health and safety of our staff very seriously,” spokesman Tim Murtaugh told POLITICO in an emailed statement. “We have enacted numerous safety measures beyond what most private employers consider, at the expense of the campaign, including weekly deep cleaning, daily office temperature checks for staff and guests, widely available masks and PPE, and staff testing before events and before returning to the office. “

Murtaugh did not respond to questions about when the deep cleanings began, why the use of masks and social distancing was limited, or the number of field personnel who had become ill.