WASHINGTON (AP) – It was supposed to be a celebration scene.
Instead, the Trump campaign’s election night party in the East Room of the White House has become another symbol of President Donald Trump’s leisurely attitude towards a virus that is raging across the country and spreading. infects more than 100,000 people every day.
The polls show that attitude is a serious drag to the president’s re-election attempt as voters have chosen to turn down Trump for a second term in favor of his Democratic rival, now President-elect Joe Biden. And the party ̵1; with few masks and no social distancing – is now under extra scrutiny after the president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, becomes the newest head White House officials contracted the virus, which has now killed more than 237,000 people in the US alone.
The White House has repeatedly refused to say anyone else has tested positive, even as the virus continues to spread. The latest White House cluster, coming just a month after Mr. Trump himself was diagnosed and hospitalized, included a top Trump campaign official as well as several undisclosed White House employees, officials said. know.
The White House increasingly kept the outbreaks a secret. Many White House and campaign officials, as well as party attendees watching the election, were kept secret of their diagnoses, unknown to them until they were released in the press.
That the virus will continue to spread within the White House – although senior staff and those in close contact with the president and vice president are regularly checked – no surprise to medical officials. who did not like the looseness of the White House. approach.
“The government is tolerant of the risks of the virus to themselves and to the country. And that’s one reason why we have so many cases, ”said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a professor of public health at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Public Health.
Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he has been avoiding the White House since August “because my impression is that their approach to handling this is different from mine and what I emphasize. that we have to do in the Senate, that is, wearing a mask. and practice away from society, ”
Meadows in particular has long tried to reduce the severity of the virus. He rarely wears masks in public, except for the period shortly after Trump becomes infected. At one point, he refused to speak to reporters on Capitol Hill after they asked him to wear a mask.
He was again absent from the East Room event on Tuesday night, where over 100 of Trump’s most staunch supporters gathered to watch the election results and watch him present what they hoped would be a speech. victory schedule.
It’s a festive atmosphere, with empty wine glasses and other drinks scattered on cocktail tables in front of the news camera. Meadows, who had spent time with the Trump family before, was seen working in the room, including giving attendees a couple of hands-on hands, before Trump took to the stage early Wednesday morning.
Although all attendees of the East Room event were pre-screened for viruses, there was no social alienation and wore minimal masks.
Earlier that same day, Meadows had accompanied the president to his campaign headquarters in Virginia, where Trump received hearty cheers from dozens of employees and volunteers. Meadows didn’t wear a mask, nor did the other White House agents. The campaign assistants have, for the most part, done.
Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist at George Mason University, said if Meadows had a positive result on Wednesday – as Bloomberg News reported – he could have been infected in both events.
Meadows also traveled with Trump during Election Day, attending dozens of rallies, where he frequently interacted with supporters without a mask.
Trump’s refusal to follow the government’s public health guidelines throughout the campaign was a major cause of disappointment for the local authorities as he scheduled protests after the rally despite local restrictions. crowd size, even in pandemic hot regions.
While Trump has hoped his efforts to take down the virus in an attempt to revive a faltering economy will help him with voters, many Republicans now believe Trump may have won the election. if you handle things another way.
However, Trump’s approach reflects the preferences of his supporters. AP VoteCast, a national survey of voters, found that about half of Trump voters call economics and employment the top problem the country faces, compared with just 1 in 10 Biden voters. The majority of voters are in BidenMeanwhile – about 6 out of 10 – said the pandemic was the most important problem facing the country.
The White House did not respond to specific questions about the current outbreak, but said that contact tracking was conducted by the White House Health Unit, in line with Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. sick.
“Appropriate notices and recommendations have been made,” said the White House.
The CDC defines “close contact” as spending at least 15 minutes within 6 feet of an infected person starting two days before they test positive or show symptoms.
But Popescu specifically called the party “a ripe environment for transmission to happen,” and said that anyone who attended should be informed and asked to take precautions.
“Although they may not meet the CDC guidelines for exposure, I think when we watch an indoor event with many people for a long time without being exposed, be very cautious, People should be informed and encouraged to stay home, ”she said.
“Now is not the time to dwell on the risks,” Sharfstein said.
Ohio’s Pastor Darrell Scott, a close ally of the president who attended the party, said he didn’t know any White House officials other than Meadows had given a positive result until informed by a reporter and has not been contacted by anyone yet.
While Scott, like many in Trump’s orbit, continues to emphasize fraud as the cause of the president’s loss – although there is no credible evidence to back those claims – he he also blamed Trump for some “undeniable blame” during the campaign, including the way he spoke about the virus.
“I can’t be sad if we shoot ourselves in the leg,” he said.
The latest outbreak came less than two weeks after some of Vice President Mike Pence’s aides, including his chief of staff, tested positive for the virus. And it comes a month after Trump, first lady Melania Trump and at least two dozen others got positive results after Trump held mass gatherings without masks, including the public ceremony. announced the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
Associated Press writers, Zeke Miller and Kevin Freking contributed to this report.