Some activities U.S. President Donald Trump attended in the last week, analysts say, have likely been superspreader events for COVID-19, leaving behind a trail of infected people, making it difficult to determine who infected whom.
On Friday of last week, the president attended fundraiser at his Washington hotel. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who was at the function, has since reported her COVID-19 positive status.
The next day, the White House hosted events for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s nominee to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Guests were tested for the virus and if found negative were told that it was safe to remove their masks to socialize in the Rose Garden and in the White House. Photos from the Rose Garden event show many maskless people sitting side by side in rows of chairs without regard to social distancing.
Since then, two senators who attended the events – Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Mike Lee from Utah – along with Notre Dame University President John Jenkins, have reported COVID-19 infections.
At the first presidential debate Tuesday in Cleveland, Ohio, the first lady and Trump’s grown children sat in the audience maskless, even after physicians from the Cleveland Clinic offered face coverings to them.
"I am frustrated today as I worry now about my own health and the health of so many others who were present that evening like journalists, support staff, Cleveland Clinic professionals, and many others who could have potentially been exposed," Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes said in a statement Friday. “This is a very somber moment for our country in a year of somber moments."
Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager, has reported his COVID-19 positive status since traveling to Cleveland.
On Wednesday, the president went to Minnesota for a fundraiser in Shorewood and a rally in Duluth. Trump aide Hope Hicks started feeling ill on the way back to Washington and is reported to have self-isolated on the plane. Hicks had also been with the president in Cleveland.
Hicks had tested negative for the virus earlier Wednesday but tested positive Thursday morning. Despite his exposure to Hicks, Trump traveled to New Jersey on Thursday for a fundraiser at his golf club, where he mingled maskless with maskless guests.
By late Thursday, Bloomberg News reported that Hicks was COVID-19-positive, and the White House confirmed the story.
New Jersey public health officials are conducting contact tracing to warn fundraiser participants of their possible exposure to the coronavirus-caused disease.
First lady Melania Trump also has been infected. She is recuperating at the White House.