Kudlow refuses to say whether Trump wore a mask in his return to work

Larry Kudlow, President Donald Trump’s top economic advisor, told CNBC on Wednesday the president returned to the Oval Office on Tuesday, a comment later denied by the White House.

“The president actually showed up in the Oval Office yesterday with extra precautions with respect to his Covid-19,” Kudlow said. “And he’s getting a lot better, he’s much stronger. So there was some limited activity.”

Asked by “Squawk Box” co-host Joe Kernen whether the president donned a mask while in the Oval Office, the Director of the National Economic Council said he “can’t be specific, Joe. It’s the work of the top rung of the federal government.”

But Kudlow was quickly contradicted by the White House, which in a tweet said Trump had not visited the Oval Office.

“While the President wanted to be in the Oval Office yesterday, he was not there—he stayed back in the residence working from there,” Ben Williamson, a White House spokesman, said in a tweet. “Safety preparations have been underway in the event he moves to working out of the Oval in the coming days.”

The comments from Trump’s top economic advisor came less than 48 hours after Trump was discharged from Walter Reed hospital, where the president spent the weekend being treated for the coronavirus.

“The president, as you’ve seen, has been masking quite a bit. And everyone else who comes into contact in the Oval – the traffic is limited as you might expect – but there are additional precautions, additional measures that have been taken,” Kudlow said.

Kudlow’s remarks, though contested by the White House, rekindled concerns that Trump could pose a risk to others.

That caution was on full display Tuesday, when Trump’s challenger in the 2020 election, former Vice President Joe Biden, said the two should hold off on their second scheduled debate if the president is still infectious.

“I think if he still has Covid, we shouldn’t have a debate,” Biden told reporters in Maryland. “I think we’re going to have to follow very strict guidelines. Too many people have been infected and it’s a very serious problem.”

“I’ll be guided by the guidelines of the Cleveland Clinic, and what the docs say is the right thing to do — if and when he shows up for debate,” the Democratic nominee added.

But concerns aren’t isolated to the Biden campaign after more than a dozen Trump administration officials have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in the past week. 

“In the White House, there’s a good deal of contract tracing, and we’re doing the absolute best we can,” Kudlow told CNBC. “We’ve added additional precautions to try to protect against any further positive testing and so forth. So we’ll see how that runs.”

Someone is considered contagious for 10 to 20 days from onset of symptoms, depending on the severity of the infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The president’s physicians are regularly testing him to determine his viral load, which can help determine when he’s no longer contagious. Trump announced early Friday that he and his wife tested positive. Among the most recent White House staff members who have announced positive tests in top domestic aide Stephen Miller. 

Editor’s note: This article was updated to reflect the White House’s assertion that while President Trump has returned to work, he has not returned to the Oval Office.

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