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Trump's personal valet tests positive for coronavirus

The president and the vice president have since tested negative, the White House said Thursday.
President Donald J. Trump
Few aides to the president have been seen wearing masks around the West Wing.Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Imagesfile

WASHINGTON — One of President Donald Trump's personal valets, who works in the West Wing serving the president his meals, among other duties, has tested positive for the coronavirus, the closest the virus is known to have come to the president, a White House official said.

Since the White House medical unit was made aware of the case, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have both tested negative, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Thursday. The White House did not say when the valet developed symptoms or when the president was last exposed to the individual.

The news was first reported by CNN.

After learning that one of his valets was infected, Trump became "lava level mad" at his staff and said he doesn't feel it is doing all it can to protect him, according to a person close to the White House.

The source said the unknowingly infected valet was consistently close to the president throughout the day. Trump publicly disputed that Thursday, telling reporters that he'd had "very little contact, personal contact, with this gentleman."

The president that the White House would be increasing testing from weekly to daily, but he added that "testing is not a perfect art." Trump also said he and Pence tested negative on Wednesday and Thursday.

"So we test once a week. Now we're going to go testing once a day," he said during an Oval Office photo opportunity with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. "But even when you test once a day, somebody could — something happens where they catch something."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who recently had close contact with a person with COVID-19 should stay home for 14 days since the last exposure, check their temperatures twice a day and stay away from people who are at high risk of getting seriously ill. The White House hasn't indicated whether Trump will follow those guidelines.

Staffers who come into close contact with the president have said they are tested regularly, but few aides have been seen wearing masks around the West Wing, including when Trump traveled recently to Phoenix, where he said he wore a mask for only a brief period of time. Everyone entering the White House grounds has their temperatures checked.

There is generally a bit of a lag between the time a person is infected and a positive test result, said Kelly Wroblewski, director of infectious diseases at the Association of Public Health Laboratories.

In March, a staffer for Pence who worked in the adjacent Eisenhower Executive Office Building tested positive, but officials said neither the president nor the vice president had come into contact with the aide. The president himself had brief contact with several Brazilian officials in March at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida who later tested positive.

The valet is a member of the Navy, said a person familiar with the situation. The Navy regularly details personnel to work at the White House in a variety of positions to take care of the president's daily needs, like serving meals, bringing him beverages throughout the day and ensuring that his clothes are ironed and his shoes are shined.