News & Politics

Why Did DC’s Mayor Have to Beg for Help Tracing the White House Covid Outbreak?

So, as it turns out, the White House is in DC.

Photograph by Alexander Ramjing via iStock.

Nearly a week after President Trump announced he tested positive for Covid-19, the White House has finally started talking to city officials about contact-tracing the administration’s outbreak in DC, the Washington Post reports.

So it turns out the White House is in DC? Wow! So that means if people in the White House get Covid-19, people who live in DC might get the virus, too? Infectious diseases, what a concept!

Yesterday, Mayor Muriel Bowser and Congressional lawmakers had to send letters practically begging the administration to respond to their requests for transparency on the outbreak and collaboration on contact tracing. In her letter to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Bowser wrote that the health of DC residents was in “jeopardy if we do not work together at this critical juncture.” Why does she have to spell that out, seven months and more than 200,000 deaths into the pandemic?

There’s been a rather insane level of secrecy and confusion around the president’s condition and the number of people near him who have tested positive for the virus. But DC officials don’t have much power to compel the federal government to actually keep them informed about an outbreak in the middle of the city. “Not all testing on federal officials is reported to the city government,” the Washington Post reported yesterday.

Washingtonian reported last week on the technicalities that don’t count Trump or his wife in the city’s official Covid-19 tally because they live in a national park and are technically not DC residents. The first couple rarely interacts with the city around them, but their staffers do. So it is unlikely the  virus will stay within the neat little blocks of federal land squared off downtown.

In fact, as the New York Times reports, after hearing of the outbreak, a “number of White House officials, some of them senior, frantically called officials at the office of Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland for help getting tested.” That was because, the Times reports, “the White House officials apparently were unaware of the city’s numerous and rapid testing sites.”

Apparently! Unaware! I mean I’ve heard of getting lost around town, but are you f!#@&*g kidding me?

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Web Producer/Writer

Rosa joined Washingtonian in 2016 after graduating from Mount Holyoke College. She covers arts and culture for the magazine. She’s written about anti-racism efforts at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, dinosaurs in the revamped fossil hall at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, and the horrors of taking a digital detox. When she can, she performs with her family’s Puerto Rican folkloric music ensemble based in Jersey City. She lives in Adams Morgan.

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