Daily Camera (Boulder)

White House won’t re­veal re­sults

- By Jill Colvin Health · U.S. News · US Politics · Politics · Infectious Diseases · Health Conditions · Washington · White House · Donald Trump · White House Press Secretary · Harvard University · Executive Office of the President of the United States · United States of America · Minnesota · New Jersey · Democratic Party (United States) · Joe Biden · Cleveland Clinic · Sterling · U.S. Supreme Court · George Mason University · George Mason · Sean Conley · Hope Hicks · Bedminster · Christopher J. Christie · Virginia · Gold Star Chili · Joint Chiefs · Yale School of Public Health

WASHINGTON — It is a basic, cru­cial ques­tion and one the White House re­fuses to an­swer: When was Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s last neg­a­tive test for the coro­n­avirus be­fore he tested pos­i­tive last week?

“Yeah, I’m not go­ing to give you a de­tailed read­out with time­stamps ev­ery time the pres­i­dent’s tested,” White House press sec­re­tary Kayleigh Mce­nany told re­porters last week­end.

“I can’t re­veal that at this time,” echoed Alyssa Farah, the White House di­rec­tor of strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tions. “Doc­tors would like to keep it pri­vate.”

“I don’t want to go back­wards,” said Dr. Sean Con­ley, the pres­i­dent’s physi­cian.

The an­swer could help fill in vi­tal de­tails about the course of the pres­i­dent’s ill­ness as well as when he may have been con­ta­gious and whom else he may have ex­posed. And the White House re­fusal to an­swer makes it hard not to won­der what they’re hid­ing, given other de­tails they’ve shared.

“At this point it’s just so strange that they’re un­will­ing to give us the in­for­ma­tion,” said Michael Joseph Mina, a physi­cian and pro­fes­sor of epi­demi­ol­ogy at Har­vard’s school of pub­lic health. “It makes peo­ple start think­ing

things like, ‘Was the pres­i­dent the su­per-spreader?’... If there was no ne­far­i­ous ac­tiv­ity go­ing on, then they should have no prob­lem an­swer­ing this ques­tion.”

The in­for­ma­tion is also key to track­ing who else may have been ex­posed to the virus so their con­tacts can be traced to pre­vent new clus­ters of in­fec­tion.

“Then you can get an idea, po­ten­tially, of when he was in­fected, how long his in­cu­ba­tion pe­riod was, and also then eval­u­ate who may have been ex­posed to him over that time frame,” said Ben­jamin Pin­sky, med­i­cal di­rec­tor of the clin­i­cal vi­rol­ogy lab­o­ra­tory at Stan­ford Health Care. While there is con­sid­er­able vari­abil­ity be­tween cases, he said, Trump was most likely in­fec­tious sev­eral days be­fore he tested pos­i­tive — a pe­riod dur­ing which he trav­eled and had close con­tact with dozens of peo­ple.

Se­nior White House staff and those who are in di­rect con­tact with the pres­i­dent are tested for the virus daily. The White House orig­i­nally gave the im­pres­sion that Trump, too, was tested ev­ery day, with Mce­nany claim­ing in July that Trump was “the most tested man in Amer­ica” and tested “mul­ti­ple times a day.” But Trump con­tra­dicted her, say­ing, “I do prob­a­bly on av­er­age a test ev­ery two days, three days.”

The cur­rent White House line is that Trump is tested “reg­u­larly.”

Here’s what is known: On Wed­nes­day, Sept. 30, dur­ing a trip to Min­nesota for a fundraiser and rally, one of the pres­i­dent’s clos­est aides, Hope Hicks, be­gan feel­ing ill. She iso­lated her­self aboard Air Force Once dur­ing the trip home, but the White House ap­pears to have taken no fur­ther ac­tion.

The next morn­ing, Hicks was again tested for the virus. This time, the re­sults came back pos­i­tive, just as the pres­i­dent was about to leave for a fundraiser at his golf club in Bed­min­ster, New Jersey. A fran­tic ef­fort was made to swap out staff who had been in close con­tact with Hicks, in­clud­ing Mce­nany. But Trump, who had also been with Hicks, none­the­less boarded Ma­rine One, along with other White House staff still in the dark about Hicks’ di­ag­no­sis.

Af­ter re­turn­ing home from Bed­min­ster, Trump was ad­min­is­tered a rapid test, fol­lowed by a more ac­cu­rate con­firm­ing test, which takes sev­eral hours to process. Both came back pos­i­tive.

“Safe to say, his first pos­i­tive test was upon re­turn or at least af­ter Bed­min­ster,” Mce­nany said.

But had Trump been tested be­fore he made that trip to court donors in New Jersey af­ter Hicks fell in?

Had he been tested be­fore he trav­eled to Min­nesota?

What about the pre­vi­ous day, be­fore his first de­bate against Demo­crat Joe Bi­den in Cleve­land? The Cleve­land Clinic, which co­hosted the event, re­quired that all at­ten­dees be tested in ad­vance. Cam­paigns had to “cer­tify” that their can­di­dates and trav­el­ing staff had tested neg­a­tive within 72 hours. “Each cam­paign com­plied with this re­quire­ment,” the clinic said in a state­ment.

White House spokesman Brian Mor­gen­stern, how­ever, re­fused Fri­day to con­firm that was the case in an ap­pear­ance on MSNBC.

“The pres­i­dent’s doesn’t check all of his HIPAA rights at the door just when he be­comes pres­i­dent,” Mor­gen­stern said, re­fer­ring to the Health In­surance Porta­bil­ity and Ac­count­abil­ity Act, which was writ­ten to pre­vent doc­tors and oth­ers who bill for in­surance cov­er­age from dis­clos­ing a per­son’s med­i­cal in­for­ma­tion with­out their con­sent.

Was Trump tested Mon­day, Sept. 28, be­fore he held a photo op with a truck on the South Lawn and a Rose Gar­den press con­fer­ence to trum­pet coro­n­avirus test ef­forts? What about be­fore a de­bate prep ses­sion with his cam­paign man­ager, Bill Stepien, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who have both since tested pos­i­tive?

What about Sept. 27, when he vis­ited his golf course in Ster­ling, Vir­ginia, held a late af­ter­noon news con­fer­ence in the White House brief­ing room, and held an evening re­cep­tion for Gold Star fam­i­lies on the White House state floor? Adm. Charles W. Ray, the vice com­man­dant of the Coast Guard, who was in at­ten­dance, has since tested pos­i­tive, forc­ing the nation’s top mil­i­tary lead­ers, in­clud­ing the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, into self-quar­an­tine.

What about Sept. 26, be­fore he held a Rose Gar­den cer­e­mony an­nounc­ing his next pick for the Supreme Court, com­plete with closed-door re­cep­tions where few wore masks? Nu­mer­ous at­ten­dees have since tested pos­i­tive fol­low­ing the sus­pected “su­per­spreader” event.

Could Trump have been con­ta­gious that day? Could he have been the spreader?

Dr. Al­bert Ko, an in­fec­tious dis­ease spe­cial­ist and depart­ment chair­man at the Yale School of Pub­lic Health, noted that a small pro­por­tion of peo­ple in­fected con­trib­ute to the ma­jor­ity of in­fec­tion, with about 20% of peo­ple re­spon­si­ble for 80% of trans­mis­sion, stud­ies show.

While it’s un­clear if Trump did in­deed spread it, Ko said, “try­ing to iden­tify peo­ple and when they could be in­fec­tious is im­por­tant, es­pe­cially when they are in con­tact with a lot of other peo­ple.”

Added Saskia Popescu, an in­fec­tious dis­ease epi­demi­ol­o­gist at Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity, “There is con­cern that he con­tin­ued to en­gage in pub­lic ac­tiv­i­ties af­ter his ini­tial pos­i­tive test, which is deeply wor­ri­some and frankly uneth­i­cal.”

“There is con­cern that he con­tin­ued to en­gage in pub­lic ac­tiv­i­ties af­ter his ini­tial pos­i­tive test, which is deeply wor­ri­some and frankly uneth­i­cal.”

Saskia Popescu an in­fec­tious dis­ease epi­demi­ol­o­gist at Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity

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