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DC says White House has conducted ‘limited contact tracing’ after Rose Garden event, urges testing

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The Washington, D.C., Department of Health has released an open letter appealing to all White House staff and anyone who attended a Sept. 26 event in the Rose Garden to seek medical advice and take a COVID-19 test.

The letter was released due to “limited contact tracing performed to date” by the White House medical team, regarding an ongoing virus outbreak that has infected President Donald Trump, multiple senior staff members and two U.S. senators, among others.

Co-signed by nine other local health departments from neighboring jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia, the letter states a belief that contact tracing on the outbreak has been insufficient.

It says the public appeal is because “there may be other staff and residents at risk for exposure to COVID positive individuals.”

It asks all White House employees, anyone who attended the Sept. 26 event and anyone who may have been in contact with those people to “contact your local health department for further guidance/questions regarding your potential need to quarantine.”

Mayor Muriel Bowser said earlier this week that repeated attempts to contact the White House over the outbreak had received a “very cursory” response but that she believed the necessary steps were being taken.

“There are established public health protocols at the White House that are federal in nature,” Bowser said on Monday. “We assume that those protocols have been engaged.”

White House spokesman Judd Deere said Monday that the White House “has established a robust contact tracing program led by the White House Medical Unit with CDC integration to provide appropriate recommendations.”

On Wednesday, White House deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern detailed the in-house contact tracing regime to reporters.

“We look back 48 hours to find people who may have been within six feet (of an infected person) for at least 15 minutes. And the purpose is to mitigate further transmission of the virus, correct? It’s not to go back and identify patients zero. I understand that people are very curious about that I’m curious too,” he said. “It’s sort of an unknowable question as to where it entered the environment.”

The District of Columbia has reported nearly 16,000 positive COVID-19 cases, with more than 630 deaths, according to Thursday data from Johns Hopkins University.

Bowser on Wednesday announced she was extending the local state of emergency, which was scheduled to expire Oct. 9, through Dec. 31.

A Health Department spokeswoman did not respond to questions from the Associated Press on whether the letter had been directly sent to any White House employees or people who attended the Sept. 26 event, or if the D.C. government had been provided with a list of attendees.

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