Donald Trump has refused to wear a mask or observe many distancing guidelines because, he’s said, he and everyone around him is tested for coronavirus every day, so it’s not necessary. With the positive tests of first top aide Hope Hicks and then Trump and wife, Melania, there goes that. The question now is when the White House knew there was an issue and how many people Trump and those around him infected.
Hicks tested positive on Wednesday, and Bloomberg reports, “Some of Trump’s closest aides said they sensed on Wednesday that Trump was feeling poorly but they chalked it up to fatigue from an intense campaign schedule.” That’s the day after Trump stood opposite former Vice President Joe Biden and shouted for 90 minutes. Bearing out the view that Trump wasn’t feeling well on Wednesday, his rally in Minnesota that day was “about 45 minutes, roughly half the length of one of his typical rally speeches,” The New York Times reports.
It was on the trip to that Minnesota rally that Hicks began showing symptoms and tested positive. The White House tried to keep that information secret, but the story was broken by Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs on Thursday night.
On Thursday, after Hicks’ diagnosis, Trump traveled to New Jersey for a fundraiser and a roundtable with supporters. So everyone at those events was presumably exposed after Team Trump knew that Hicks had not only tested positive but was symptomatic, and with people around Trump thinking he seemed unwell. By Thursday evening, the Times reports, Trump “sounded raspy on a call with Iowa voters and in an interview later with Sean Hannity on Fox News.” But until Jacobs reported on Hicks’ positive test, the White House didn’t let slip that there was any reason for concern, even as, the Times reports, “Several staff members who have avoided masks were suddenly wearing them.”
A big concern right now has to be Biden, who will be tested Friday but who is not out of the average incubation period for a few more days. While the two men were separated on the stage at an event done in consultation with the Cleveland Clinic, Trump’s constant shouting would seem to be the perfect vehicle for aerosols to spread well beyond six feet. Here’s hoping there was excellent air exchange and filtering in that room.
But beyond that, there’s everyone Trump came into contact with on his trip to Minnesota, which included a fundraiser as well as the rally, and on his New Jersey trip, in addition to White House staff, Secret Service, and anyone else involved in his travel. Is Trump going to turn into his own personal superspreader event in part because he refused to take precautions after the positive test of an aide with whom he had been, unmasked, on travel and in long meetings? Once again we see Trump’s casual contempt and callous disregard for other people’s lives, and a White House that enables his worst impulses.