How the White House Flouted Basic Coronavirus Rules
The White House coronavirus outbreak has now grown to more than 20 people, and there is mounting evidence that the government has done little to prevent or contain the spread of the virus. For months, President Donald Trump minimized the threat from the virus and ignored basic safety precautions like wearing a mask or staying 6 feet away from anyone else. At several events over the past week, White House staff defied recommendations from scientists, local authorities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to contain the infection, even after the president tested positive. Here are a few ways Trump and his staff ignored basic guidelines.
The White House relied too much on rapid tests.
The Food and Drug Administration only approved the rapid coronavirus tests used by the White House "within the first seven days of symptoms appearing." These tests often miss infections in people with no symptoms.
According to the CDC, those who test negative on a rapid test may need to confirm the result with a laboratory test, especially if they have symptoms or have come into contact with an infected person.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the White House has been running rapid tests on a regular basis to screen employees and guests for the coronavirus because they are fast, portable and easy to use. But those who tested negative often skipped other precautions, like wearing a mask or social distancing. Experts say that for people who show no signs of infection, rapid tests are less accurate and should not be used as the only precaution.
Negative tests do not guarantee a lack of infection, as people who have recently been infected may not have enough viruses in their bodies for tests to detect. Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to the President, and Kayleigh McEnany, the press secretary, both tested positive earlier this week after testing negative in the preceding days.
And while officials made it appear that Trump is being tested every day, the White House has since admitted the tests weren't that frequent and refused to reveal the last time Trump tested negative.
Members of the administration held meetings indoors, did not wear masks, and did not maintain recommended social distance.
The CDC's guidelines for preventing the spread of the coronavirus state that you should stay at least three feet away from anyone outside your household and “cover your mouth and nose with a mask” near others. The national health protection agency also recommends holding outdoor gatherings whenever possible.
The Trump administration allowed those who received a negative result to go to meetings and events without a mask, including a reception at the White House for Supreme Court candidate Amy Coney Barrett.
The president had teamed up with advisors for maskless preparatory meetings before the first presidential debate on September 29. Several of those involved - including Chris Christie, a former New Jersey governor; Kellyanne Conway, a former White House adviser; Hope Hicks, a current consultant; and Bill Stepien, Trump's campaign manager, have said they have tested positive since then.
The president and his staff spent several hours in the enclosed Air Force One room last week traveling to events in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Ohio, and New Jersey. At least eight people on board these flights, including Hicks, McEnany, Miller and Stepien, have since tested positive for the virus.
The White House and Trump campaign hosted large gatherings in violation of state and local restrictions.
According to CDC guidelines, large face-to-face gatherings where it is difficult to maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet represent the "highest risk" of spreading the coronavirus to all types of gatherings and events. This includes both indoor and outdoor events.
The White House and Trump campaign hosted several large rallies, fundraisers, and other events the week before Trump tested positive.
The day after Trump housed at least 200 people in the rose garden, the president hosted a reception at the White House in honor of the Gold Star families. At least 100 people attended the indoor event, including Adm. Charles Ray, the Vice-Commander of the Coast Guard, who has since tested positive and has caused many of the country's top military officials to go into quarantine.
A citywide ordinance in Washington prohibits gatherings of more than 50 people. However, because the White House is at the federal level, it is exempt from local regulations.
The Trump campaign also hosted three large outdoor rallies this week in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Minnesota, three states whose guidelines limit gatherings to 250 people. Officials in Pennsylvania criticized the Trump campaign for violating local regulations, and the Virginia incident was also under scrutiny.
The White House does not track contacts with anyone attending a potential "super-spreader" event.
The CDC recommends contact tracing for close contacts of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus or are considered likely cases. Contact tracers notify, interview and advise the infected person's close contacts, and the CDC says that close contacts should be tested on their own.
Although at least 12 participants have tested positive since then, the White House has chosen not to follow up the contacts of those who attended the Rose Garden event for Barrett. Instead, the White House said it would only notify those who came in contact with Trump in the two days prior to his October 1 test positive.
A White House spokesman said the contact tracing for Trump's trip to Bedminster, New Jersey, "closed" on October 1. One guest confirmed he had received three emails alerting him to a possible threat - one from the Trump campaign and two from state and local authorities - but said no one called him.
The president and his aides have not been quarantined after people around them showed symptoms and tested positive.
The CDC says those who have been in “close contact” with someone who tests positive should be quarantined for 14 days, starting two days before the infected person's disease broke out. The White House says it follows CDC guidelines for key workers who have come into contact with infected people.
On September 30, Trump flew to Minnesota with staff and members of Congress aboard Air Force One to raise funds and hold a rally. That night, Hicks felt sick and sat separated from others on the back of Air Force One on the way home.
Anyone who was in close contact with Hicks in the two days before she experienced symptoms should be quarantined.
Despite knowing about Hicks' illness, Trump and his aides traveled to Bedminster the next day, to a small indoor round table, and then to a larger outdoor fundraiser. That evening, Bloomberg News reported that Hicks had tested positive, and after midnight, Trump announced that he had also tested positive.
Even after Trump and Hicks tested positive, McEnany, who had been in close contact with both, continued to go to work. The day after the president tested positive and went to work that weekend, she hosted a press conference while maskless on the White House lawn. She later said she was an important worker. On Monday she said she tested positive.
Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and Dan Scavino Jr., a deputy chief of staff, continued to work in the west wing despite repeated contacts with the president. Both were at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center with Trump after being hospitalized over the weekend and joined the President in the Oval Office on Wednesday, six days after the president tested positive.
The president was unable to isolate after positive tests.
Those who test positive for the coronavirus should isolate themselves from others for at least 10 days after testing positive or at least 10 days after symptoms first appeared, according to the CDC.
According to official data, Trump tested positive on October 1. That means he should be in isolation until at least Sunday, October 11th - even if he no longer had symptoms.
Instead, Trump, accompanied by agents of the secret service, left the isolation on Sunday to greet the supporters, flew to the White House with Marine One on Monday and entered the White House again without a mask Other. Video footage of the president before he went to the White House on Monday showed him near a photographer and several other people.
This article originally appeared in the New York Times.
© 2020 The New York Times Company
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