One workplace where social distancing is impossible? The West Wing

A backup helicopter to Marine One flies over the West Wing and Rose Garden of the White House on February 23, 2020.

This analysis was excerpted from the May 11 edition of CNN's Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe.

(CNN)If there is one workplace in the world where social distancing is impossible, it's the West Wing of the White House. Walk through the front door, and you'd be in the Oval Office in about 15 seconds -- but for the Secret Service agents standing in your way.

The seat of US executive power is hardly the spacious expanse of open plan offices through which characters in the "West Wing" TV show are always speed-walking. In real life, aides cram into tiny spaces, some offices not much bigger than a desk. No one is complaining — the proximity to power is worth 18-hour days in what is basically a cupboard.
But given the tight quarters, news that a valet to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence's press secretary have both tested positive for Covid-19 is alarming -- not just because the coronavirus is getting awfully close to the American President and his designated successor. It's almost impossible to believe that it has not infected more people than already identified. As White House economics adviser Kevin Hassett said Sunday, "It's scary to go to work."
But adopting tougher measures to stop the White House from becoming a coronavirus hot spot would undermine Trump's political narrative. He refuses to wear a mask (incredibly, his valet didn't wear one either), says it's time for people to go back to work and school and claims that universal testing isn't necessary. But if the virus can penetrate the inner sanctum of the White House — how can he argue with a straight face that everyone is safe?