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Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

White House aides have advised President Trump to avoid the Oval Office while he's still infected. But they’re making arrangements for him to work out of the Diplomatic Reception Room, and use it as a backdrop for future televised remarks, two White House officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: The preparations show that far from bunkering down in the residence until he's well, Trump is considering remaining active while he recovers from COVID. Any Trump movement in the West Wing would create a series of risks for his staff.

A taste of Trump's attitude about the virus played out on live TV last evening as he returned by Marine One at sunset after three nights at Walter Reed: He walked up to a White House balcony, took off his mask for the cameras, put it in his jacket pocket, adjusted his suit, straightened his tie and lingered to give purposeful thumbs-ups and salutes.

  • "Don’t be afraid of Covid," he tweeted — the exact opposite of what any medical or public-health professional will tell you. "Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!"
  • "Will be back on the Campaign Trail soon!!!" he added.

Reflecting widespread dismay among administration officials, a White House source told Axios:

  • "It's insane that he would return to the White House and jeopardize his staff's health when we are still learning of new cases among senior staff. This place is a cesspool."
  • "He was so concerned with preventing embarrassing stories that he exposed thousands of his own staff and supporters to a deadly virus. He has kept us in the dark, and now our spouses and kids have to pay the price. It's just selfish."

The big picture: The White House — despite its infinite access to the best resources available — continues to respond to its own coronavirus outbreak about as recklessly as possible, Axios' Caitlin Owens writes.

  • The White House is doing only minimal contact tracing, and hasn't sought help from the CDC, the N.Y. Times reports (subscription). The White House has decided not to trace the contacts of attendees at last weekend’s Rose Garden event celebrating the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
  • Mayor Muriel Bowser said D.C. officials have been unsuccessful in trying to connect with the White House to assist with contact tracing: "We have reached out to the White House on a couple of different levels, a political level and a public health level."

Among those endangered by Trump's approach:

  • "The White House residence staff members are largely Black and Latino, and often elderly, according to Kate Anderson Brower, who compiled a trove of interviews with former staffers for her book ''The Residence,'" the WashPost reports. There are about 90 full-time ushers, butlers, housekeepers, valets, florists, engineers and cooks.
  • "For the Secret Service, a New Question: Who Will Protect Them From Trump?" says a N.Y. Times headline.
  • White House reporters are increasingly anxious and angry, Axios' Sara Fischer reports. N.Y. Times White House correspondent Michael Shear, who tested positive, tells Axios: "My wife has now tested positive for COVID. The collateral damage is going to be pretty significant, I think."

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect the fact that the Diplomatic Reception Room is not located in the West Wing.

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Go deeper

Updated 16 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Massachusetts to mandate COVID vaccination for long-term care staff — CVS, Walgreens see uptick of people getting COVID vaccines — WHO calls for moratorium on booster shots through September.
  2. Health: Fauci fears a COVID variant worse than Delta could be coming — America's pandemic pessimism returns — Florida counties hold off on adding more testing despite Delta surge.
  3. Politics: Arkansas governor says he regrets banning mask mandatesBiden tells GOP governors who resist COVID rules to "get out of the way" — Florida school district reverses mask mandate after DeSantis' funding threat.
  4. Business: Biden voices support for private sector vaccine requirements — More corporations are requiring workers to get vaccinated.
  5. World: Israel reinstates restrictions as cases surge— Wuhan to test all residents for COVID-19 amid Delta variant concerns.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Jan 14, 2021 - Health

WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins

Health workers at a cordoned-off section of the international airport in Wuhan, China, as the World Health Organization team arrives on Thursday. Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images

A World Health Organization team of researchers arrived in Wuhan, China, Thursday ahead of their investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Driving the news: Dominic Dwyer, a Sydney virologist based who's among the scientists on the visit, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation they don't expect to find a "patient zero." "But we may have a much better indication of whether the virus truly started in Wuhan," he said.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jan 13, 2021 - Health

Why COVID demands genetic surveillance

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A seemingly more transmissible coronavirus variant is threatening the world — and exposing the U.S.' lackluster genetic surveillance.

Why it matters: A beefed-up program to sequence the genomes of infectious disease pathogens infections could help the U.S. identify dangerous new coronavirus variants — and get the jump on pathogens that could ignite the pandemics of the future.