White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett noted in a Sunday television appearance that “it is scary to go to work” in the West Wing, after Vice President’s Mike Pence press secretary Katie Miller tested positive on Friday and a day after President Donald Trump’s valet did as well.
Hassett told CBS News’ Face the Nation the Trump administration is watching closely as “states around the country are starting to turn their economies back on.” But he noted that social distancing and the wearing of masks should be maintained because there are still thousands of new COVID-19 cases each day — including one in his own workplace. Hassett said
As of Friday, three members of the White House have tested positive for COVID-19, as the Trump administration continues encouraging some businesses and states to cautiously pursue reopening.
“Companies and employers need to know what to do to safely re-open. The White House is testing staff regularly. Is that what you’re advising America’s businesses to do? When will the CDC release specific guidance?” CBS host Margaret Brennan asked Hassett Sunday.
“You know, I’m not a doctor. I’m just an economist, and I … But I think that right now we have bought some time with all the money that we’ve thrown at the economy and we’ve been using the time to do things like develop treatments, improve our treatments, learn more about social distancing and so on.”
When asked if he personally wears a mask — something both Trump and Pence have previously declined to do in public — Hassett relayed his health concerns about the White House staff.
“You know, I’ve got a mask right here. And the fact is that I practice aggressive social distancing,” the economic adviser said. “I’ll wear a mask when I feel it’s necessary. It is scary to go to work. You know, I was not part of the White House in March. I think that I’d be a lot safer if I was sitting at home than I would be going to the West Wing. But, you know, it’s the time when people have to step up and serve their country.”
“And so the interesting, sad thing about my dear colleague who was stricken with the coronavirus this week is that we were getting tested because we’re close to the president every day. And even with that, you know, she tested negative one day and then positive the next day. And she’s going to work at a community where people are being tested. And so this is a very, very scary virus,” he continued.
Hassett declined to offer a specific date in which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may offer guidelines to businesses and states about testing amid the reopening process. He predicted that late May or June will likely be the high point for U.S. job losses, potentially climbing above a 20 percent unemployment rate. Hassett repeatedly said “testing is a key component,” but it still doesn’t remove all the risks.
“Right now, looking across the U.S., there are more than 30 million people that are getting initial claims from unemployment insurance, and that’s the biggest negative shock to the jobs market that we’ve seen since World War II,” Hassett added.