US Vice-President Mike Pence at the White House in Washington, DC, the US, May 7 2020. Picture: STEFANI REYNOLDS/CNP/BLOOMBERG
US Vice-President Mike Pence at the White House in Washington, DC, the US, May 7 2020. Picture: STEFANI REYNOLDS/CNP/BLOOMBERG

Washington — US Vice-President Mike Pence returned to the White House on Monday after self-isolating for the weekend. One of his aides had tested positive for Covid-19, prompting the move, and all staff working in the West Wing were instructed to wear masks.

A memo was sent to staff on Monday directing everyone who entered the wing where the daily operations of President Donald Trump's administration are carried out to cover their faces. With Trump's valet and Pence's press secretary both testing positive for the deadly coronavirus last week, pressure is growing for the White House to take further steps in protecting the health of country's 73-year-old president.

Trump has been resistant to wearing a mask himself and has not put one on in public, though he said he tried some on backstage during a visit to a mask factory in Arizona last week.

The president is in the age group that is considered high risk for complications with the coronavirus, which has killed tens of thousands of people in the United States alone and ravaged countries and economies worldwide.

The White House said last week it was stepping up precautions for people who are around Trump and Pence, both of whom have resumed travel outside of Washington. The two men are being tested for the virus daily and close associates are receiving tests on a daily basis as well.

"In addition to social distancing, daily temperature checks and symptom histories, hand sanitizer, and regular deep cleaning of all work spaces, every staff member in close proximity to the president and vice president is being tested daily for Covid-19 as well as any guests," White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

After Pence's spokeswoman, Katie Miller, tested positive for the virus last week, Trump was asked whether people in the West Wing would begin to wear masks. He responded that people already were doing so, but he and his guests that day had not donned masks, and staff in the West Wing were not wearing them either.

The US has the highest number of total Covid-19 deaths in the world, with 79,894 deaths out of 1,339,819 cases as of Sunday. At least 216,169 have been declared recovered.

Reuters