• Kevin Hassett, a senior economic adviser to the president, said Sunday he knew it would be safer to stay at home than go to work in what he called the “relatively cramped” West Wing.
  • “We’ve all been exposing ourselves to risks under the best guidance we could possibly have to keep us safe,” Hassett said. “But we’re willing to take that chance because we love our country, and I think that there are things that have to happen in that West Wing even if the building is a little bit old and under-ventilated.”
  • At least a dozen people who may work near the president and vice president have tested positive for the virus in the past week, though Trump and Pence have so far tested negative for COVID-19.
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Kevin Hassett, a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, said Sunday that White House employees were knowingly putting themselves at risk working in the “relatively cramped” West Wing as at least a dozen people with ties to the White House have tested positive for COVID-19.

Hassett, who told CNN’s Jake Tapper he had no intention of leaving his job at CNN to return to work at the White House prior to the pandemic, said he knew from the outset there would be risks associated with returning to work for the president when he was asked to do so in March.

“I knew when I was going back in that I would be taking risks – that I would be safer sitting at home in my house than going into a West Wing that – even with all the testing in the world and the best medical team on earth – is a relatively cramped place.”

Hassett, who said in March he created a “big data operation” in the White House basement to track the number of available ventilators, said he had early on been exposed to people trafficking in and out of the White House to other government agencies.

“When I got there we were interacting constantly with people going to and from FEMA,” Hassett said. “Right at the beginning when we were there, there were people who caught COVID at FEMA. So, we’ve all been exposing ourselves to risks under the best guidance we could possibly have to keep us safe.”

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He added: “But we’re willing to take that chance because we love our country, and I think that there are things that have to happen in that West Wing even if the building is a little bit old and under-ventilated.”

Hassett said he wears a mask in the White House when he feels it is “appropriate to do so” and said he practices social distancing while at work. He added he believed the discussion about the wearing of masks to be “significant,” but said that to speak with the president, White House staff must first test negative for the novel coronavirus.

“There’s, according to what the doctors tell me, not a lot of evidence that you can pass the virus – that you have enough viral load to pass it – if you test negative,” he added.

Hassett’s Sunday appearance on “State of the Union” comes as more than a dozen people, including the vice president’s press secretary and Trump’s personal valet, who may work near President Trump and Vice President Pence, tested positive for the novel coronavirus last week.

As of Thursday, 11 members of the Secret Service had tested positive for COVID-19, according to documents from the Department of Homeland Security seen by Yahoo News. According to the report, it is not known whether the employees who tested positive worked at the White House or if whether they had recent contact with Trump or Pence.

The president and vice president have so far tested negative for the virus, though the president last week said he would switch from weekly to daily COVID-19 tests in light of the new cases, The Hill reported.

So far, at least 1,311,923 people in the US have been infected with the novel coronavirus and 78,855 have died from the disease, according to data analyzed by Johns Hopkins University.