Oct 6, 2020 - Health

The White House's reckless pandemic response

Illustration of a man in a suit struggling to carry several large coronavirus cells, some have fallen.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The White House — despite its infinite access to the best resources available — continues to respond to its own coronavirus outbreak about as recklessly as possible.

Why it matters: This botched response has jeopardized the health of the president and his staff, and it has set a very poor example in a country that's already done a terrible job handling the virus.

Driving the news: President Trump left Walter Reed yesterday to return to the White House, but medical officials have not said he's past the point of being contagious.

  • This was about 24 hours after Trump left his hospital bed – and isolation — to drive around in a car to wave at his supporters, putting the Secret Service agents in the car with him at risk.
  • White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany became the latest official to test positive for the virus yesterday — a day after she had gaggled maskless with reporters.
  • Vice President Mike Pence, who has been around numerous officials who have since tested positive for the virus, is still traveling on the campaign trail. Pence tested negative for the virus yesterday morning.

The White House is doing only minimal contact tracing, and has not sought help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, per the NYT.

  • It has decided not to trace the contacts of attendees at last weekend’s Rose Garden event celebrating the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. At least eight people who attended that event have since tested positive.
  • It’s opting instead to only notify Trump’s contacts in the two days before his diagnosis — an extensive list.

What he’s saying: “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!” Trump tweeted yesterday afternoon.

What we're watching: White House residence staffers — many of whom are people of color or elderly — are already bearing the burden of this sloppiness, and may continue to, as the Washington Post points out.

The bottom line: Negligence within the White House led to the leader of the free world being hospitalized with a deadly virus.

  • This same negligence has exposed hundreds of people to the disease, who are doubtlessly exposing hundreds more people — within the White House complex, in the day care centers and gyms of Washington, D.C., and in states including New Jersey and Minnesota, where the president traveled before he was diagnosed.
  • Incompetence and recklessness have plagued America’s coronavirus response since the beginning of the pandemic. And the recklessness starts at the top.
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