The White House is a coronavirus hotspot. It's proof-positive we need mass testing.
If ever there was a "control group" —one showing why both mass testing and contact tracing are needed — it’s the White House staff itself.
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For weeks, Donald Trump has been claiming mass testing for coronavirus isn’t necessary. Public health officials strongly disagree, arguing that a percentage of the public (much larger than the percentage tested right now) needs to be tested to offer a road map moving forward.
Trump famously said back in early March, “anyone who wants a test can get a test” (something that was untrue then and still is untrue two months later). As the incompetence of the government became clear he then switched gears, pushing Americans to go back to work without the kind of mass testing necessary.
But the White House — the building and the people in it, who continue to test positive for coronavirus — has proven why we need mass testing as well as contact tracing.
Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman, desperate to get the the city up and running, left the nation dumbfounded two weeks ago when she said Las Vegas could serve as a “control group” to see how widespread the virus is. It was an unhinged moment, and the Nevada governor rightly said nothing of the kind would happen.
Yet, if ever there was a control group —one showing both why testing and contact tracing are needed — it’s the White House staff itself, as the White House has become a coronavirus hot spot.
Trump’s personal valet tested positive last week. Then on Friday Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller — the wife of the white nationalist advisor to Trump, Stephen Miller — tested positive and was apparently symptomatic, causing a number of Pence’s other aides who’d worked with her to rush off Pence’s plane before it took off for Iowa. On Saturday, we learned that 11 members of the secret service tested positive, as a widespread outbreak is feared by aides at the White House.
Now the Centers for Disease Control director Robert Redfield; the government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci; and the FDA commissioner, Stephen Hahn, have gone into two-week self-quarantine after stating they’ve been exposed to coronavirus.
Trump and Pence will now be tested daily rather than weekly, after Trump reportedly had a major meltdown when he learned about his valet, and accused his staff of not protecting him. Others surrounding them will be tested daily as well, while official visitors coming into the White House are randomly tested or have their temperatures checked (something that doesn’t prove much, since many people who have coronavirus don’t have a fever).
No doubt more positive tests will now turn up as the White House tests staffers daily and then engages in contact tracing.
If coronavirus is so widespread inside the White House, where there is frequent testing available, how can anyone believe it’s not as widespread throughout the U.S., as the administration pushes people back into work spaces, beauty salons, restaurants and shops where there’s even less social distancing possible than inside the White House?
Testing is only one tool for containing a pandemic, absent a treatment or vaccine. Social distancing as well as wearing masks when in public are the only other tools right now.
But Trump, Pence and others in the White House have been resistant to both. They’ve both been traveling outside the White House — putting many others at risk who must organize and service their trips — and Trump never wears a mask in public, clearly wanting to project that all is safe and well.
Pence didn’t wear a mask to the Mayo Clinic, incurring lots of rightful shaming. He’s sporadically worn a mask since then, but not at any official White House events.
On Saturday, after the news of the outbreak in the White House, Trump didn’t wear a mask when he met with top military leaders, and didn’t wear a mask the day before when he met with Republican leaders. In fact, none of the GOP congressional leaders — who mingled and socialized well within six feet of one another before the meeting — wore masks. Many are likely afraid of offending Trump to the point that they’d put themselves and their families at risk.
The White House told HuffPost lawmakers had been tested before entering. But the Abbott ID Now instant test the White House is using has a 15% chance of giving a false negative result. That’s one in six. More so, the reason government health officials have taken it upon themselves to self-quarantine is because the virus won’t show up in blood tests for several days or even up to two weeks after infection, so testing negative a day or two after exposure means little.
Unlike the health officials who’ve been exposed, Trump and Pence are still out meeting with people, potentially transmitting coronavirus. It’s all part of a desperate attempt by Trump to save his re-election by getting the economy re-started at all costs — even amid mass death. It underscores the terrible way this administration responded from the beginning.
Had Trump gotten the tests out to the governors so that a substantial portion of the population could be tested, we’d have an idea of how widespread the virus is and how states could proceed. The White House coronavirus outbreak itself is proving why testing and contact tracing — as well as social distancing and wearing masks — are vital on a mass scale.
Trump seems clueless that his bragging about how often he and those around him are tested — he’s bragged about it several times, including on his way to Arizona to visit a mask factory last week — not only makes the case for why mass testing is necessary; it raises the question of why he and his staff and other political elites should be so well-protected while the rest of us are ordered by Trump to be “warriors” and risk death.
And it shows, as we’ve seen since day one of this presidency, that Trump, the malignant narcissist, doesn’t care if Americans are harmed or even killed, and only cares about himself.
UPDATE, 6:17 p.m. 5/10/20: Now Pence, as of tonight, is in fact self-isolating, perhaps realizing the hypocrisy but maybe more so knowing the medical fact that he could be positive. The question is, Why isn’t Trump — who met and Republican leader on Friday and with with the military leaderso on Saturday, after the reports of staffers testing positive—isolating?
UPDATE II, 8:46 p.m. 5/10/20: Now apparently Pence is reversing, not isolating, no doubt bowing to Trump.