Meanwhile, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany sought to reassure the news media that the White House testing procedures are sound. I wanted to draw attention to this quote from McEnany:
“We have put in place the guidelines that our experts have put forward to keep this building safe, which means contact tracing," McEnany told reporters during Friday’s news briefing. "All of the recommended guidelines we have for businesses that have essential workers, we are now putting them in place here in the White House. So as America reopens safely, the White House is continuing to operate safely.”
The careful reader will note a jarring juxtaposition here. McEnany claims both that the United States is reopening safely and that the White House is operating safely. But only one of these two — the White House — actually has the sort of testing regime the White House itself is now implicitly acknowledging is a prerequisite to safety.
The rest of the country largely lacks this level of testing — because Trump doesn’t want to take the steps necessary to stand up a robust federal testing regime.
The rub here is that the guidelines by themselves (which McEnany referenced) aren’t enough. Equipment and resources are also necessary.
Trump, Pence and their aides have access to rapid and regular testing, which is also given to those who meet with them. They have access to the resources that enable the very sort of safe testing regime McEnany described here.
It’s true that the fact that Miller tested positive — as one of Trump’s valets did earlier this week — shows that having robust testing isn’t absolutely foolproof. The coronavirus can still get in. But as Philip Bump notes, having that intensity of testing is exactly what prevented it from spreading.
That’s the whole point behind the idea that you need far more robust testing and tracing to reopen the economy safely. Experts have noted that you need not just dramatically ramped-up testing resources, but also a robust effort at contact tracing — which entails tracking and testing those who have had contact with infected people — to make this possible.
Some of Trump’s own officials and coronavirus task force members agree with this. CNN’s Jake Tapper reports that they have privately urged Trump to “take the lead on an ambitious national testing program,” so that “society can responsibly take steps to reopen,” including fully deploying the Defense Production Act to marshal the private-sector resources to make this happen.
But Trump has rebuffed the idea. Instead, Trump has signaled that the states should largely bear this burden.
But many states have been loudly saying they need more federal help in securing the equipment they need to do the requisite number of tests, as indeed Trump’s own officials have told him. And as many states move to reopen, many of them are struggling to ramp up contact tracing programs, creating a patchwork around the country.
McEnany herself correctly noted that both testing and contact tracing are key to keeping those in the White House working at close quarters with one another safe. But Trump is urging Americans to resume economic activity without fully deploying the federal government so that the rest of the country can enjoy the protections Trump and those around him do.
It is of course to be expected that they have access to these protections, because Trump is the president. But Trump is making a choice not to meaningfully take the steps necessary to extend this to the rest of us. Businesses everywhere are reopening in the grip of a level of frightening uncertainty that the White House is being spared, in part because of that very choice.
It should be shocking that the White House would so blithely reveal that its own safety is dependent on the very thing Trump is not making a serious effort to bring to the rest of the country, while simultaneously claiming we are just as safe as they are. But at this point, nothing is shocking anymore.