Trump's controversial economic adviser says the 'crowded' White House is a 'scary' place to work amid increasing infections

Kevin Hassett, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House, Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, in Washington.AP Photo/Evan Vucci
  • White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said on Sunday that working in the "small, crowded" White House offices is "scary."
  • Despite many White House staffers' refusal to adhere to CDC guidelines concerning masks and social distancing, Hassett insisted he practices "aggressive social distancing."
  • Trump has refused to wear a face mask even after his valet and Vice President Mike Pence's press secretary tested positive for the virus last week.
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Kevin Hassett, a top economic adviser to President Donald Trump, said on Sunday that going work in the White House is "scary," given the West Wing is a "small, crowded place" with a risk of exposure to coronavirus-infected staffers.

"It is scary to go to work," Hassett said during a Sunday interview on CBS News' Face the Nation.

This comes as White House staffers, including most recently one of Trump's West Wing valets and Vice President Mike Pence's press secretary, have tested positive for the coronavirus. Advertisement

Trump has refused to wear a mask in public and insists he's protected from being infected because he and those who come in contact with him are regularly tested for the virus. Hassett said those who interact with the president are tested daily. Other West Wing staffers are tested weekly.

But Trump contradicted his own logic by conceding last week that, even with regular testing, cases can fall through the cracks. Meanwhile, many White House officials similarly refuse to wear a mask or follow other social distancing guidelines.

The White House announced that Pence has tested negative since having sustained contact with his infected aide, Katie Miller, and will continue to work from the White House. Several staffers who were also in contact with Miller are also still going to work in the White House, rather than isolating at home.
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Miller spoke to reporters on Thursday without a mask or gloves on while standing within six feet of them. She tested positive for the virus the next day. Hassett insisted he practices "aggressive social distancing" in the White House and wears a mask "when I feel it's necessary."

As of last Thursday, 11 members of the Secret Service had tested positive for the virus. And the rapid coronavirus testing the White House is using has been found by some hospitals to be less reliable than other forms of testing. Experts have found that the test — which returns results with 13 minutes — produces false negative results in some circumstances, including in patients with lower viral loads. Advertisement

Meanwhile, two members of the White House coronavirus task force — CDC head Robert Redfield, Food and Drug Administration commissioner Stephen Hahn — announced over the weekend that they would begin two weeks of quarantining after coming in contact with Miller during a Situation Room meeting last week.

And Anthony Fauci, the prominent task force member and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is practicing a "modified quarantine" after being exposed to an infected aide.

Hassett called the virus' infectiousness, even in an environment with regular testing, "very scary." Advertisement

"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," he said of Miller. "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."

Hassett, Trump's former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), was brought back into the administration recently to help manage the economic crisis. He sparked widespread controversy earlier this month over his creation of a model that shows daily US covid-19 deaths falling to zero by mid-May.

Former CEA chair Jason Furman called the model, which was released and defended by the Council, "the lowest point in the 74 year history of the Council of Economic Advisers." Advertisement

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