By JORDYN PHELPS, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — Even as President Donald Trump remained infected with the novel coronavirus and contagious, he returned to the Oval Office Wednesday, disregarding isolation rules and putting staffers at increased risk.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows had said earlier in the day that the president was eager to return to his official presidential office — and that he had been wanting to do so since Tuesday — telling reporters that safety precautions would be taken to accommodate the president’s request and said that those who have direct contact with the president at this time are wearing “full PPE, masks, goggles, and the like.”
“If he decides to go to the Oval, we’ve got safety protocols there that are not only from the PPE standpoint, but from a ventilation standpoint, in the open where we can actually work to that end as well,” Meadows said, who removed his mask before while taking questions from reporters at a distance Wednesday morning.
The president’s return to the Oval Office comes as he is supposed to be observing a period of self-isolation, in accordance with CDC guidelines.
The White House had outfitted the Map Room and Diplomatic Reception Room in the White House residence as remote working spaces for the president during his period of expected isolation after his made-for-TV return from three nights in the hospital on Monday.
While Meadows expressed confidence that the president’s return to the Oval Office could be carried out safely with those around the president outfitted in full PPE, the White House has not said whether the president himself is also wearing a mask while around others and in the Oval Office.
Some West Wing staffers who have remained healthy despite the recent outbreak among the ranks of the administration have continued to come into work at the White House in recent days.
The full extent of the precautions the White House says are being taken to ensure those staff members don’t come into contact with the infectious president is not fully known.
A White House official said the president used an outdoor entrance to access the Oval Office Wednesday to avoid contacts with White House staff and that only a select few staff members are coming into direct contact with the president.
A Marine was posted outside for a time Wednesday afternoon, often a sign that a president was inside.
The official told ABC News that only Meadows and Dan Scavino, the deputy chief of staff for communications who also runs Trump’s social media, had spent time with the president in the Oval Office office on Wednesday.
A spokesman said Trump was being briefed on stimulus talks, which he called off abruptly Tuesday only to tweet later in the day he wanted to resume negotiations.
The president tweeted Wednesday that he had been briefed on Hurricane Delta and spoke with the governor’s of the impacted states, GOP Gov. Abbott of Texas and Louisiana’s GOP Gov. John Bel Edwards.
The president’s return to the Oval Office Wednesday is the first confirmed instance of the president returning to the West Wing since he departed for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Friday.
Earlier on Wednesday, the president’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow said in an interview on CNBC that the president actually had gone to the Oval Office on Tuesday. But soon after, the White House issued a clarification, saying that was not the case.
“While the President wanted to be in the Oval Office yesterday, he was not there—he stayed back in the residence working from there. Safety preparations have been underway in the event he moves to working out of the Oval in the coming days,” White House spokesman Ben Williamson said.
Despite the fact that the president is still infected with the coronavirus and his medical team has cautioned he is “not out of the woods” yet, Meadows described the president as being in “very good health.”
“Yeah, he’s doing real well. We actually spent some time together yesterday working very hard from the residence, and I can tell you that he’s fully engaged and feeling great,” Meadows said during an interview on FOX News Wednesday.
The president’s physician also issued a memorandum mid-day reporting that the president said “I feel great” and had been symptom free for 24 hours. He said that the president’s vitals and oxygen levels remained stable and within a normal range.
Since his highly choreographed return to the White House Monday evening, the president has remained out of public view.
During his three-night stay at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the White House released what appeared to be staged photos of the president at work in his presidential hospital suite, distributed taped video messages from the president’s Twitter account, and at one point, the president even took a surprise trip outside the hospital to drive by supporters who gathered on the road outside the hospital as a show of support for the ailing presidents.
On Tuesday, the president had been said to be contemplating addressing the nation in some form, either formally or through another taped video message, but that never came to pass.
ABC News’ Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.
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