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Trump's election party draws scrutiny as guests test positive for Covid-19

At least three top Trump administration or campaign officials have tested positive for Covid-19 after attending an election night watch party in the White House East Room

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Donald Trump | US Presidential elections 2020 | Coronavirus Vaccine

AP  |  Washington 

Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters
Donald Trump

At least three top Trump administration or campaign officials have tested positive for COVID-19 after attending an election night watch party in the White House East Room.

The night intended to mark a victory that never came has become yet another symbol of the president's cavalier attitude toward a virus that is ripping across the nation and infecting more than 100,000 people a day.

Ben Carson, the secretary for housing and urban development, tested positive, a department spokesperson confirmed Monday, as did David Bossie, who was recently tasked with overseeing the campaign's legal challenges contesting the election's outcome.

The event had been under scrutiny since another attendee, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, contracted the virus, which has now killed more than 238,000 people in the U.S. alone.

Carson's deputy chief of staff, Coalter Baker, said the secretary is in good spirits" and "feels fortunate to have access to effective therapeutics which aid and markedly speed his recovery. Carson is a retired neurosurgeon.

The White House has repeatedly refused to say who else has tested positive, even as the virus continues to spread. The latest White House cluster, coming just a month after Trump's own diagnosis and hospitalization, includes a top Trump campaign official as well as a handful of undisclosed White House staff, officials said.

The White House has been increasingly secretive about outbreaks. Many White House and campaign officials, as well as those who attended the election watch party, were kept in the dark about the diagnoses, unaware until they were disclosed by the press.

That the virus would continue to spread in the White House even though senior staff and those who come into close contact with the president and vice president are frequently tested has come as no surprise to public health officials who have balked at the White House's lax approach.

And polls suggest that attitude was a serious drag on the president's reelection bid as voters chose to deny Trump a second term in favor of his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, who is now the president-elect.

The administration was cavalier about the risks of the virus for themselves and for the country. And that's one reason why we have so many cases," said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a public health professor at Johns Hopkins University's school of public health.

Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he has been avoiding the White House since August "because my impression was their approach to how to handle this was different from mine and what I insisted that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing, Trump had long claimed, without basis, that the virus was being hyped by Democrats to hurt his reelection chances and would miraculously disappear after Nov. 3.

Meadows, in particular, has long tried to play down the severity of the virus. He rarely wore a mask in public, except during the period immediately following Trump's infection. At one point, he refused to speak to reporters on Capitol Hill after they requested he wear a mask.

He was again without one during Tuesday evening's East Room event, where more than 100 of Trump's most loyal supporters, family members and Cabinet secretaries gathered to watch the election results come in and see him deliver what they had hoped would be a victory speech.

It was a festive atmosphere, with half-empty glasses of wine and other beverages strewn across cocktail tables in front of news cameras. Meadows, who spent time with Trump's family beforehand, was seen working the room, including giving several fist bumps to those in attendance, before Trump took the stage early Wednesday morning.

Carson was there, along with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar who did wear a mask.

While everyone who attended the East Room event had been tested in advance for the virus, there was no social distancing and minimal mask-wearing.

Earlier that day, Meadows had also accompanied the president to his campaign's headquarters in Virginia, where Trump received rousing cheers from several dozen staff and volunteers. Meadows did not wear a mask, nor did other White House staffers. Campaign aides largely did.

If Meadows tested positive Wednesday as Bloomberg News reported he would likely have been infectious during both events, said Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist who teaches at George Mason University.

Meadows had also traveled with Trump in the run-up to Election Day, attending dozens of rallies where he was frequently seen interacting with supporters without masks.

Trump's refusal to abide by his own government's public health guidelines throughout the campaign was a major source of frustration for local governments as he scheduled rally after rally in defiance of local caps on crowd sizes, even in pandemic hot zones.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Tue, November 10 2020. 09:58 IST