White House halts mandatory temperature checks, symptom screening

Staffers and visitors who come in close contact with the president and the vice president are still having their temperatures checked and being questioned about coronavirus symptoms.
Image: A member of the White House physicians office takes the temperature of a member of the media on March 21, 2020.
The White House has stopped conducting mandatory temperature checks — such as the March one seen here — for all staffers and visitors entering the grounds.Patrick Semansky / AP file

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By Shannon Pettypiece and Monica Alba

WASHINGTON — The White House has stopped conducting mandatory temperature checks for all staffers and visitors entering the grounds, removing another layer of safeguards put in place after two officials became ill with the coronavirus last month.

While those who come in close contact with the president and vice president are still having their temperature checked and being questioned about symptoms, the steps are no longer being taken for others who enter the White House campus, said spokesman Judd Deere. Tents that had been manned for the past month by staffers with thermometers were being taken down on Monday.

“In conjunction with Washington, D.C., entering Phase Two today, the White House is scaling back complex-wide temperature checks,” Deere said in a statement. “In addition to social distancing, hand sanitizer, regular deep cleaning of all work spaces, and voluntary facial coverings, every staff member and guest in close proximity to the president and vice president is still being temperature checked, asked symptom histories, and tested for COVID-19.”

The White House had already stopped requiring all staffers in the West Wing to wear masks, a measure put in place in May when the president’s personal valet and the vice president's spokesperson tested positive for COVID-19. Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said last week that masks were recommended by not required in the West Wing, despite its narrow corridors and desks packed closely together, making it difficult for staffers to remain 6 feet apart.

The move comes after the virus once again touched on Trump’s orbit last week when six staffers preparing for his campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, tested positive for the coronavirus. The campaign said it was conducting contact tracing, but also noted that the staffers had been in Oklahoma for a week.

While temperature checks can’t identify people who are infected but not showing symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for workplaces say employers should “consider conducting daily in-person or virtual health checks (e.g., symptoms and/or temperature screening) of employees before they enter the work site.”

Freddie Tunnard contributed.