White House Covid cluster

The growing White House Covid cluster could turn out to be a clusterfuck. Lax attitudes to Covid and lax protective measures may have contributed to a dangerous situation.

It appears that Covid may have been spreading amongst those associated with Trump for days before a positive test of close aide Hope Hicks raised the alarm – but not enough alarm to stop Trump travelling to and attending a fund raising event before his positive test result was made public.

The White House Covid cluster includes:

  • Donald Trump
  • Melania Trump
  • Hope Hicks (senior White House adviser who close aide too Trump)
  • Kelly Anne Conway (former adviser and current associate)
  • Bill Stepien (Trump campaign manager)
  • Chris Christie (ex N.J. Governor who helped Trump prepare for the debate on Tuesday)
  • Ronna McDaniel (Republican National Committee Chair)
  • Mike Lee (Senator R-Utah)
  • Thom Tillis (Senator R-N.C.)
  • Ron Johnson (Senator R-Wis.)

I’m sure there will be a lot of testing going on and more positive tests may come out of the cluster.

Trump is currently being treated in hospital. There are differing reports of his condition. He is in a high risk group due to his age and weight and presumed lack of physical activity.

There is also uncertainty about when Trump tested positive.

CBS News: Trump tweets he is “feeling well”; Source says his vitals were “very concerning”

It’s the most serious health crisis a president has faced since President Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981. 

Dr. Sean Conley, the president’s physician, told reporters on Saturday that Mr. Trump was not on oxygen. However, he sidestepped questions about whether the president had received oxygen treatment at the White House on Friday. 

Conley said Mr. Trump is “just 72 hours into the diagnosis now,” creating confusion about when the president found out he had COVID-19. He made the announcement about his positive test result early Friday morning, after appearing at a fundraiser at his club in Bedminster, New Jersey, hours earlier.

72 hours before Saturday is about Wednesday.

Reuters – Trump’s COVID-19 symptoms ‘very concerning’, next 48 hours critical: source

President Donald Trump is not yet on a clear path to recovery from COVID-19 and some of his vital signs over the last 24 hours were very concerning, a person familiar with his health said on Saturday.

The source’s assessment of the Republican president’s medical status seemed to be at odds to that of a team of doctors who said at a press conference earlier on Saturday that he was “doing very well.”

The source, who asked not to be identified, said the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of Trump’s care.

Trump left the White House and was moved to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington on Friday just hours after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Trump just getting Covid is concerning. The health of the president is a big deal. It’s hard to read how much the hospitalisation was precautionary and how much necessitated by Trump’s condition.

White House doctor Sean P. Conley told reporters outside the hospital on Saturday that Trump had not experienced difficulty breathing, and currently was not on supplemental oxygen.

“The team and I are extremely happy with the progress the president has made,” Conley said.

Conley said Trump had received a first dose of a five-day course of Remdesivir, an intravenous antiviral drug sold by Gilead Sciences Inc that has been shown to shorten hospital stays. He is also taking an experimental treatment, Regeneron’s REGN-COV2, one of several experimental COVID-19 drugs known as monoclonal antibodies, as well as zinc, Vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and aspirin, Conley has said.

That seems like a lot of drugs. They must be being administered based on top current medical advice, but there must be some risk from the experimental nature of the treatment.

So how did this Covid outbreak occur? Obviously many people associated with Trump travelling and mingling at campaign events raised the risks, as did a lax attitude to basic protective measures like wearing of masks.

Trump repeated mocking of Joe Biden for frequently wearing a mask at the Tuesday debate. Trump’s campaign is now in jeopardy while Biden can continue his cautious campaign (his campaign has sensibly withdrawn negative advertisements targeting of Trump).

There is some uncertainty about Trump’s condition and also when he tested positive.

Reuters: Relying on testing to ward off COVID put Trump White House at risk

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. President Donald Trump put his faith in a toaster-sized machine that could spit out test results in a matter of minutes.

In late March, Trump hailed the launch of Abbott Laboratories’ ID NOW test at a Rose Garden event and embraced its widespread use at the White House to keep the deadly virus at bay. The president often skipped his own administration’s public health recommendations on mask wearing and social distancing, explaining that “everyone’s tested” around him using the Abbott device.

His strategy was no match for the virus.

Obviously everyone around him being tested was not enough as it didn’t prevent the current outbreak, it just confirmed the virus was spreading in Trump’s entourage.

“The reliance on a rapid test, with its limitations, unfortunately gave the White House and its staff a false sense of security that they were in control of the virus,” said William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

“You cannot rely on that test to create a barrier between you and the virus,” he said, adding that people “have to wear masks, do social distancing and not go to all these rallies.”

While rapid tests can help contain the spread of a highly contagious virus, they were not designed to be used in isolation. A negative result merely captures a snapshot in time and doesn’t guard against infection soon after. And a person may be infectious for days before the amount of virus in their body registers positive on a test.

That’s all well known. We have been told about it often enough here in new Zealand over the last eight months. Human behaviour contrary to safe practices has been our biggest (but relatively small) problem.

Lax behaviour is likely to have contributed to this outbreak.

Trump and his staff regularly do not wear masks. Last month, Trump publicly disagreed with Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who testified to Congress about the importance of the face coverings.

And at Tuesday’s presidential debate, Trump disparaged his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, for his frequent mask use. “I don’t wear masks like him – every time you see him, he’s got a mask,” the president said.

Now, the fallout from the White House’s focus on testing as a precaution could extend far beyond the president and his wife, experts say.

The fallout includes obvious serious health risks for Trump and those who have been associating with him.

Trump’s campaign has also been severely disrupted. If Trump recovers quickly enough and resumes his campaigning that is likely to be much more cautious regarding Covid, and Trump’s attitude to Covid could be (should be) quite different.

While most people survive Covid Trump is in a higher risk group, so his health, his life and the presidency are at risk. His ability to govern the country has already been impacted.

There have been a number of articles along the lines of What happens if a presidential candidate dies

Aside from his risk factors the odds are that Trump will survive.

To date there have been about seven and a half million recorded cases of Covid, and currently 213,841 deaths, which is a 2.8% death rate.

There are currently 2,566,780 active cases in the US, with 14,177 of those classified as serious or critical, which is just 0.55%.

There is a seven day rolling average of 42,646 new cases per day in the US, with a seven day average of 726 deaths, which is 1.7%.

So the Trump and White House cases are comparatively small, and the risk of serious illness or death also small.

But even if Trump recovers quickly from being infected with Covid should be a reality check for him. It should also dent his cavalier attitude to the virus.

There are reports that suddenly White House staff seem to be wearing masks. The reality of Covid will have hit home to many people.