U.S. Donald Trump meets with Texas Governor Greg Abbott about coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, May 7, 2020.
Tom Brenner | Reuters
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump met with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday at the White House, the president’s first scheduled event since news broke hours before that one of his personal valets had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Trump’s unidentified valet, who is a member of the military, tested positive for the virus that causes Covid-19 on Wednesday. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have both tested negative for the coronavirus since they learned of the valet’s diagnosis, said a White House spokesman.
The aide, who is now in quarantine, performed personal tasks in proximity to Trump that included serving the president his meals.
Abbott, who is a Republican like Trump and Pence, was tested for the coronavirus shortly before the meeting, according to his spokesman, John Wittman. Neither Abbott nor Trump wore masks at the meeting, as the CDC has recommended for anyone within 6 feet of other people.
During the meeting, Trump also denied having had close contact with the sick valet. “I’ve had very little personal contact with this gentleman,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “I know who he is, good person, but I’ve had very little contact.”
Nonetheless, Trump said, starting Thursday he and Pence will be tested for coronavirus daily instead of weekly, as had previously been the standard practice in the West Wing.
Abbott went forward with the visit despite the fact that he appears to be in at least two higher-risk categories when it comes to the coronavirus: He is over 60 years old and uses a wheelchair. An accident in 1984 left him partially paralyzed.
People with spinal cord injuries have weaker immunosuppression capabilities than the general population, according to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.
Wearing masks to mitigate coronavirus’ spread has become a polarizing issue in traditionally Republican-leaning Texas. So far Abbott has sided firmly with those less concerned about contracting the virus and more concerned with reopening businesses.
Abbott is one of several governors, nearly all Republican, who have decided to proceed with reopening in their states despite not having reached the diminished rates of infection recommended by the CDC before reopening. On Wednesday, Dallas County reported its highest number of new coronavirus cases to date, eclipsing the previous record, set on Tuesday.
Trump has also refused to wear a mask, against the guidance of federal health officials.
The White House has so far declined to release additional information about the valet or about any increased measures the president and those around him are taking to prevent infection. Senior White House advisor Kellyanne Conway was asked about the valet during an interview Thursday on Fox News.
Conway answered with sarcasm. “I think if anybody should start wearing masks and showing more respect, it should be the media,” she said.
Trump has noted to reporters this week that everyone around him is regularly tested.
“The test result comes back in five minutes, and we have great testing. Or they wouldn’t be allowed to travel with me,” Trump said before traveling to Arizona to visit a Honeywell factory in Phoenix that is making millions of N95 masks for the Defense Department. “It’s not my choice; it’s a very strong group of people that want to make sure they are tested, including Secret Service.”
Trump did not wear a mask during his tour of the Honeywell plant, despite signs in the factory reminding workers there to wear a mask at all times. The White House has said Honeywell officials told Trump’s team that the president and other visitors would not be required to wear masks.
— Christina Wilkie reported from Washington, D.C., and Dan Mangan reported from New York.