Trump Virus: Top Republican Mitch McConnell Avoids White House Over Covid-19
The Kentucky senator said he spoke to the president frequently over the phone but had not visited since 6 August.
Mr McConnell, a polio survivor, contrasted the White House with the Senate, where lawmakers are urged to wear masks and social distance.
Two Republican senators – Mike Lee and Thom Tillis – have also tested positive after attending a White House event, though it is unclear where they caught the virus.
Another Republican Senator, Ron Johnson, who did not attend the event, has also tested positive.
What did McConnell say?
Speaking to reporters in Kentucky, Mr McConnell said he steered clear of the White House in the last two months “because my impression was their approach to how to handle this was different from mine”.
He later also noted that he “personally didn’t feel that they were approaching the protection from this illness” in the way he felt “was appropriate for the Senate”.
While the top Republican has called for masks and distancing, he has stopped short of enacting a mask mandate in the Senate. As the majority leader of the upper chamber, Mr McConnell is responsible for making such rules.
At the end of July, his House of Representatives counterpart, Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, ordered face coverings be worn in the lower chamber after a congressman tested positive.
Mr McConnell continued his apparent subtle critique of the White House when he mentioned the struggles of “other places that have had a different view”, regarding a different approach to protections.
“And they are, you know, paying the price for it,” the top Republican said, adding that the Senate was operating normally thanks to its Covid-19 precautions.
Mr McConnell also emphasised mask-wearing and social distancing were the best way to combat the virus until a vaccine is available.
“It’s the only way we know of to prevent the spread until we get a vaccine.”
What’s the situation at the White House?
But experts have said the president and his staff were too reliant on testing over other precautions, like masks and distancing.
Mr Trump returned to the Oval Office on Wednesday afternoon and has been keen to resume work and campaign activity even as many of his aides are still in self-isolation.
In the same interview, the president also said he would not take part in a virtual debate against 2020 rival Joe Biden, calling it “ridiculous”.
More staffers are reportedly wearing masks. Traffic in the West Wing and Residence is limited. Anyone interacting with the president has donned full protective equipment, according to chief of staff Mark Meadows.