Superspreader-In-Chief: Officials Now Forced To Clean Up Trump’s COVID Mess

TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Duluth International Airport in Duluth, Minnesota on September 30, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
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October 2, 2020 2:09 p.m.
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President Donald Trump’s announcement early Friday that he had been diagnosed with COVID-19 has left in its wake a mess that could have been avoided if the President and his staff had followed appropriate protocol.

And now state and even federal officials are left trying to mop things up.

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) sharply criticized the President for his “callousness” in refusing to wear a mask at the presidential debate on Tuesday, endangering those involved in recent election-related events in his state.

Brown’s statement — and call for the President to cancel his “super-spreader rallies” — followed reports that a majority of staffers and members of Trump’s family refused to wear masks as Trump took the debate stage in Cleveland on Tuesday to face Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Just two days after the debate, Hope Hicks, a senior aide in Trump’s inner circle, tested positive for coronavirus, which should have rung alarm bells for Trump and his team. But even with knowledge of Hicks’ illness and the infectious nature of the disease, Trump and his staffers carried on with a trip to a fundraiser at the President’s Bedminster golf club, where Trump has since potentially risked the exposure of roughly 100 attendees, many of them GOP donors.

Republican donors who attended a Trump fundraiser on Thursday were “freaking out” early Friday amid the news of Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis, frantically sending texts and calling with concerns after unwittingly risking exposure of infection with coronavirus while spending time with the President at his New Jersey golf club, a person with direct knowledge of the conversations told CNBC.

Gov. Phil Murphy hurriedly urged attendees of Trump’s fundraiser in his state to self-quarantine and get tested on Friday. The Trump campaign as of Friday morning, had not sent out official guidance to many of the the donors who attended Thursday’s event, per CNBC.

Trump’s campaign rally in Duluth, Minnesota on Wednesday has also come under fresh scrutiny. The Minnesota Department of Health urged attendees to get tested, even if they don’t yet have symptoms of the coronavirus.

“There is a potential risk that transmission occurred at the Duluth rally and other events associated with President Trump’s visit,” the health department said in a statement. “Community transmission of COVID-19 was high in St. Louis County prior to this week’s rally, and people attending the rally may have been infectious without realizing it.”

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was also tasked with cleaning up Trump’s COVID mess on Friday.

Without wearing a mask himself, Meadows carefully fielded questions amid concerns that the President and his staff had put others at risk of infection given their previous knowledge of Hicks’ positive test.

Meadows — without taking responsibility for the move — said that the White House had “already started” contact tracing “just prior” to the Bedminster event.

It was only aftermath of Trump’s announcement that his campaign manager Bill Stepien, who was aboard Air Force One with both Trump and Hicks on Tuesday and did not wear a mask himself, fired off a memo to wash the campaign’s hands of responsibility — in it he urged staffers to wear masks which he claimed was among “practices the campaign has long encouraged.”

Key Coronavirus Crisis Links

TPM’s COVID-19 hub.
Josh Marshall’s Twitter List of Trusted Experts (Epidemiologists, Researchers, Clinicians, Journalists, Government Agencies) providing reliable real-time information on the COVID-19 Crisis.
COVID-19 Tracking Project (updated data on testing and infections in the U.S.).
Johns Hopkins Global COVID-19 Survey (most up to date numbers globally and for countries around the world).
Worldometers.info (extensive source of information and data visualizations on COVID-19 Crisis — discussion of data here).
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