Fla. Lawmaker Says Trump’s Club Is Being ‘Cavalier and Careless’ About COVID After Outbreak Among Staff
"It is clear to me that folks at Mar-a-Lago are cavalier and careless about mask wearing," state Rep. Omari Hardy, who unsuccessfully sought to have the club closed in January, tells PEOPLE.
The Associated Press reported on Friday there had been a rash of coronavirus infections among "some staff" at Mar-a-Lago — the private Palm Beach, Florida, club that Trump, 74, made his residence after leaving the White House.
The infections prompted the partial suspension of club services.
"As some of our staff have recently tested positive for COVID-19, we will be temporarily suspending service at the Beach Club and à la carte Dining Room," read a staff email obtained by PEOPLE.
"We have already undertaken all appropriate response measures in accordance with CDC guidance, including activating a thorough sanitization and cleaning of any affected areas and all club facilities, and we will continue our heightened environmental cleaning regimen," the email continued.
"We reiterate our commitment to the health and safety of all those who visit the Club."
The email said the club's banquet and event spaces were still open.
"Out of an abundance of caution we have quarantined some of the workers and partially closed a section of the club for a short period of time," a Trump Organization spokeswoman told The Washington Post in a statement on Friday.
The paper reported that the club has dozens of employees in the winter season, though the Trump Organization did not say how many people were affected by the outbreak.
The club's managing director did not return a call from PEOPLE on Monday; a spokesperson for the Trump Organization also did not respond to a request for comment.
"Since dining room service and food activity in the Beach Club are closed, we can't go about our normal business as usual," a social club member tells PEOPLE.
"I hope this doesn't last too long, but it's better to be safe," the member says.
Mar-a-Lago was one of the first places Trump was known to be potentially exposed to the coronavirus, after he took a photo with a Brazilian officialduring an event there last March, months before he and his wife and son contracted the illness in the fall.
The club has faced some criticism for not enforcing COVID-19 guidelines and hosting several events, including a New Year's Eve party that prompted Hardy's complaint earlier this year.
Mar-a-Lago social sources tell PEOPLE that the club approaches coronavirus safety in the same relaxed fashion as the surrounding city — and that of many in the Trump White House.
Social distancing and mask wearing are frequently brushed off. "You would never know there is a pandemic in Palm Beach," one source says.
Meanwhile, other regulars have stayed away.
"We didn't go at all this year," one winter visitor tells PEOPLE. "There are so many wonderful restaurants here we enjoyed those instead."
Rep. Hardy says he first became concerned about the club's COVID-19 rules "after seeing a New Year's Eve party video from Mar-a-Lago with guests not wearing masks."
"I worried about the workers," the Florida lawmaker says. "They deserve to work in a safe environment."
Hardy says "there is a break down at Mar-a-Lago" when it comes to pandemic precautions.
"The staff members wear masks and wash their hands, but the club management not requiring guests to observe CDC guidelines is troubling," he says. "They are basically allowing guests to endanger the health of workers."
Palm Beach County has a requirement that all guests must wear masks unless they are eating or drinking, Hardy says, but he thinks "it must be difficult to ask guests to wear masks."
"I am just concerned about doing the right thing," he adds. "Guests at Mar-a-Lago feel they have the right to endanger other people's health. It is important to protect everyone."
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