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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.

Cases: 2916309

Reported Deaths: 32851
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles98992813489
San Bernardino2450331560
Riverside2338992517
San Diego2068702037
Orange2059112277
Santa Clara899831040
Kern82398551
Sacramento791371062
Fresno79033904
Alameda64760768
Ventura57941401
San Joaquin55580738
Contra Costa49759410
Stanislaus41270730
Tulare39723494
Monterey34482248
San Mateo30694294
San Francisco28200241
Imperial24882463
Solano24654105
Merced23199290
Santa Barbara23184223
Sonoma22910234
Kings18453110
Placer16761173
San Luis Obispo14851125
Madera12778130
Santa Cruz11583111
Marin11244149
Yolo10097131
Shasta9594117
Butte9127120
Sutter743976
El Dorado739441
Napa711738
Lassen506713
San Benito477843
Yuba476626
Tehama391742
Tuolumne327936
Nevada307571
Mendocino305531
Amador294029
Lake237828
Humboldt226324
Glenn179819
Colusa16849
Calaveras151322
Siskiyou138812
Mono10804
Inyo88327
Del Norte8442
Plumas5735
Modoc3783
Mariposa3414
Trinity2994
Alpine730
Sierra690
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We'll be dry and warm the next few days with strong winds Monday-Tuesday. We'll cool gradually through the week with a chance of showers Friday.
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