The White House Is Failing to Contact Trace Its Own COVID Outbreak: Report

In the wake of the president’s positive coronavirus test on Thursday night, the administration has claimed that it has initiated a “full contact tracing” program that is “consistent with CDC guidelines.” But according to a new CNN report, the White House that failed to protect a non-compliant president from the pandemic is failing to trace its own outbreak, a crucial, post-infection step that can significantly limit the spread of the virus if properly executed.

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Similar to White House staffers’ negligence prior to Trump’s positive test — he went to an indoor buffet with donors on Thursday hours after officials reportedly learned of Hope Hicks’s diagnosis — the administration has not provided guidance to those exposed or infected by the president and his inner circle. Chris Christie, the president’s debate coach who tested positive this weekend, said that the administration gave no formal directions on contact tracing. And another source admitted that “the scale of the potential contagion at the White House has made it difficult to mount the type of contact tracing that will be required in the coming days,” according to CNN.

The White House Medical Unit, the 30-person team responsible for the health needs of the president and close advisors, was already overworked attempting to keep Trump healthy despite his pandemic carelessness. To engage in contact tracing on top of their previous workload would be a major addition, and according to the report “a person familiar with the matter said a full CDC contact tracing team hadn’t yet been mobilized.” Another federal official told the New York Times that a Centers for Disease Control team was on standby to help, but the White House had yet to call them in. Meanwhile, the White House is doing little to aid local health agencies. The Washington Post reported Saturday that public-health officials in Minnesota, Ohio, and New Jersey had yet to hear from the administration

regarding the information of those in attendance, leaving them on their own to find out who may have been exposed to the virus.

Rather than mobilize the resources of the CDC, the administration — which exposed hundreds of people between the debate on Tuesday, the rally in Minnesota on Wednesday, and the indoor buffet on Thursday — is reportedly going for a fast-and-loose that mimics their initial pandemic response. According to one source who spoke with CNN, the White House is relying on the president’s celebrity as a fallback for contact tracing. “People would know if they come into contact with Trump,” the person said.

However, the scale of the problem — and the fact that infected people can infect family members while asymptomatic — frustrates this effort to allow the news cycle to do the contact tracing. (Over 200 people attended his campaign fundraiser at his golf club in New Jersey on Thursday.) While contact tracing is a laborious effort, it is not impossible: Benjy Renton, a Middlebury senior and digital director at the school’s newspaper, has set

Public Health Officials Scramble To Contact Trace Trump : NPR

President Donald Trump throws hats to supporters after speaking at a campaign rally at Duluth International Airport on Wednesday in Duluth, Minn.

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President Donald Trump throws hats to supporters after speaking at a campaign rally at Duluth International Airport on Wednesday in Duluth, Minn.

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Public health officials in the cities and states that President Trump visited in recent days are working to contact those who had been in close proximity to him, the first lady and others who traveled with him.

Since he’s tested positive for the coronavirus, health officials worry those who attended events with the president could have contracted the virus too.

Over the past two weeks, Trump attended events in the swing states of Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota, as well as a fundraiser in New Jersey and of course, the presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio. He also went to his golf club in Potomac Falls, Va., and hosted an event announcing his Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett at the White House.

One of the people attending that event, University of Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins, has also tested positive, though it is not clear if he was infected at that time, or if he may have contracted the virus there.

“Contact tracing is going to be really important,” Dr. David Banach, an infectious diseases physician in the University of Connecticut’s health system, told the Associated Press. “The president comes into contact with many individuals during the day.”

It’s a situation that Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, calls a “nightmare.”

He told NPR’s Morning Edition that the incubation period for the coronavirus is is two to 14 days but in reality, it is usually three to five days.

“He has been around a lot of people over the last five, seven days and certainly in the last couple of days when he was likely infectious, he was around a lot of folks, including Vice President Biden,” Jha said. “I suspect many senior members of the government are going to have to go into quarantine. There’s a lot of work ahead. This is going to be complicated. This is — while of course it’s about the president — it’s not just about the president.”

At the debate Tuesday with Vice President Joe Biden in Cleveland, neither wore masks on stage. The president has often downplayed mask-wearing and he mocked Biden for wearing his often. Dr. Amy Edwards, a professor of infectious diseases at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, says coronavirus could have been incubating in the president even then.

“He did test negative while he was here just prior to the debate but that was the rapid test,” Edwards says, “so I don’t know that we can really rely on that test to say he was definitely negative.

The mayor of Duluth, Minn., where Trump attended a rally Wednesday night with his wife Melania, and top advisor Hope