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Top Trump officials seen not wearing masks or social distancing at White House Supreme Court announcement

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was spotted without a mask in the Rose Garden just days after appearing on CNBC against a backdrop encouraging the use of masks to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Posted: Sep 26, 2020 6:02 PM
Updated: Sep 26, 2020 7:30 PM


Many of the guests for President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nomination announcement arrived at Saturday's event with masks on, but as the Rose Garden event got underway, masks were virtually non-existent.

Some of the Trump administration's top health officials, as well as other attendees, were seen not wearing masks or social distancing at the highest-profile event at the White House since the Republican National Convention in August.

Seats for guests in the White House Rose Garden at the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett also did not appear spaced apart the recommended six feet, CNN reporters observed, as US deaths from the coronavirus pandemic has surpassed 200,000.

The event stood in striking contrast with the ceremonies earlier this week at the Supreme Court and US Capitol honoring the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, where many attendees at both events wore masks and were careful interacting with one another. Trump, who went mask-less for Saturday's event, wore a face covering when he paid respects to Ginsburg this week.

Alex Azar, the head of the Health and Human Services Department, put on a mask at one point during Trump's speech announcing the President is nominating Barrett as the nominee.

But as he left the ceremony, the nation's top health official fist-bumped without a mask on — going against the health recommendations he has espoused during the pandemic. Azar has repeatedly encouraged Americans to wear a facial covering and to practice social distancing.

An HHS spokesperson told CNN that Azar had tested negative prior to the event, as did others he came into contact with.

'Secretary Azar wore a mask the majority of the event and consistently communicates and practices the three Ws of wearing a mask, watching your distance, and washing your hands. In this circumstance, everyone he had contact with, including Secretary Azar, tested negative before the event.'

Top administration officials, including Attorney General William Barr and Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist who is the latest addition to the White House coronavirus task force, were also seen without masks, shaking hands and interacting closely with other attendees.

Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician at Brown University, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Saturday that 'for one of the leaders of our country, of our Health and Human Services, walking around without a mask just sends the wrong message.'

'It is essential for all of us who hold positions of influence in healthcare and government, or just in media to wear masks when we're out in public, to send that right message because that's the only way that, right now, that we're going to combat and succeed against this virus,' she said.

Ahead of the event, White House spokesman Judd Deere told CNN Saturday that anyone in close proximity to the President will be tested for Covid-19, and that there will be social distancing measures.

But two of Barrett's colleagues at Notre Dame, who attended the Rose Garden event and were seated toward the front of the audience, said they were not tested for the virus by the White House.

The two guests also told CNN that there was no mention from the White House of coronavirus testing as a requirement to attend in any of the logistical emails they received ahead of time.

The White House's protocol for the past several weeks has been to test anyone who interacts directly with the President — meaning much of the audience at Saturday's event were not tested.

The White House followed a similar protocol for the RNC, when over a thousand guests gathered on the South Lawn for the Trump's acceptance speech for his party's nomination.

This story has been updated to include a statement from HHS.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 898799

Reported Deaths: 17305
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2968216974
Riverside657571279
San Bernardino617261070
Orange580101440
San Diego53928867
Kern33669416
Fresno30471436
Sacramento25094482
Santa Clara23881388
Alameda23133456
San Joaquin21528488
Contra Costa18413240
Stanislaus17509396
Tulare17425284
Ventura14124162
Imperial12700336
San Francisco12032140
Monterey1128487
San Mateo11002159
Santa Barbara9715120
Merced9439154
Sonoma9163134
Kings820183
Solano728674
Marin7045128
Madera498174
San Luis Obispo412132
Placer408857
Yolo314458
Butte304652
Santa Cruz275325
Napa192815
Shasta183930
Sutter183712
San Benito143215
El Dorado13084
Yuba129310
Mendocino112121
Tehama8528
Lassen7641
Lake67915
Glenn6523
Nevada6038
Humboldt5619
Colusa5496
Calaveras33917
Amador31716
Tuolumne2624
Inyo22715
Siskiyou1880
Del Norte1781
Mono1762
Mariposa782
Plumas630
Modoc290
Trinity260
Sierra60
Alpine30
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Fire danger will be extreme Sunday-Monday as the biggest dry wind event of the season takes shape. A widespread freeze in the Sierra-Cascades as low as single-digit values possible Sunday night. Mild & sunny weather after Tuesday.
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