On Friday, U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases chief Dr. Anthony Fauci told CBS News Radio that there was a “superspreader event at the White House” — specifically, the September 26 ceremony in the Rose Garden. The U.S. president himself, as well as numerous White House aides and GOP politicians, tested positive for the virus in following weeks. In perhaps the least surprising move possible, Donald Trump wants a Round Two.
Three people “familiar with the plans” told the New York Times that the president is intent on personally addressing a crowd of hundreds from the South Lawn of the White House on Saturday, despite the obvious possibility that the virus isn’t done wreaking havoc on the premises. Saturday will mark 10 days since the president disclosed he tested positive for the covid-19, the length of time after which the CDC says most patients will not be infectious, though that timeline can be up to 20 days for serious cases.
Dr. Phyllis Tien, a University of California, San Francisco infectious disease expert who runs clinical trials on coronavirus patients, told the Times she would, “not clear him to start public engagements on Saturday” and the slew of treatments Trump was administered suggest his illness had been severe. The president’s doctor, Sean Conley, has declined to state when Trump’s last negative test for the virus was.
Plans for an outdoor event at the White House on Saturday were confirmed by the Washington Post and CBS News. The event is, mercifully, smaller in scale than what the president previously intended to do over the weekend: hold rallies in Florida and Pennsylvania.
At least one Trump event prior to Sept. 26 — a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma in June — is suspected by Tulsa City-County health officials to have contributed to a surge in cases. The Trump administration reportedly is making no effort to do anything but the barest minimum of contact tracing on the outbreak in the White House.
The Times also reported that “some in the White House and on the Trump campaign expressed concern about what the president might say in his remarks at the Saturday event,” as though they deserve brownie points for anonymously expressing their concerns that the president who has overseen a pandemic death toll of 210,000+ so far might go further off the rails.
Trump has openly mocked masks as somehow projecting weakness and has often refused to wear one in public; upon his return to the White House last week, he took his off as part of a photo op. At the Rose Garden event in September, many attendees crowded around each other while not wearing masks or observing the social distancing guidelines recommended by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. White House staffers were reportedly told earlier in the year that wearing masks on the job undermined the administration’s messaging, and despite the outbreak, the White House has no plans to mandate staff wear them.