tracing

Contact tracing for White House outbreak came too late, experts say

  • President Donald Trump and at least 34 White House staffers and contacts have been infected with the coronavirus following Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination ceremony at the White House Rose Garden on September 26.
  • The White House accepted the CDC’s offer to help with contact tracing on Wednesday, The Washington Post reported.
  • Epidemiologists say those efforts may have come too late: People should be tested within two weeks of getting exposed.
  • The outbreak has likely “spread beyond the White House at this point,” one expert said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Recent visitors to the White House received a letter from health officials on Thursday. It came with a warning: If they had worked in the White House in the past two weeks, attended the recent Supreme Court announcement ceremony, or had close contact with people who fit that description, they should get tested for the coronavirus. Ideally, they should already be quarantining as well.

The letter, signed by 10 health departments in the Washington, DC, area, expressed concern about a lack of contact tracing following a superspreader event at the White House.

Nearly 200 people gathered in the White House’s Rose Garden on September 26 to see President Donald Trump officially nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The majority of those attendees didn’t wear a mask. Many hugged and shook hands. A smaller group attended an indoor reception following the ceremony, where they again mingled without masks. 

At least 34 White House staffers and contacts have since been infected with the coronavirus, according to an internal memo from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. That includes bodyguards, family members, pastors, journalists, GOP senators, and advisors.

Trump tested positive for the virus on October 1. Shortly after, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered to

No Contact Tracing After Rose Garden COVID-19 Super-Spreader Event

MARLENE EDITED

 

Now that Anthony Fauci, MD, has declared the Sept. 26 Rose Garden introduction of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, a COVID-19 super-spreader event, the question is how many of the 200 guests and White House staff – most of whom did not wear a mask or social distance – have been infected. An infected person could infect at least two other people. The Washington Post is reporting that at least 34 people connected to the event or the White House have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, didn’t parse words on Oct. 9, when he told CBS News Radio that data confirms Judge Barrett’s coming-out party seeded the virus’s spread.

“We had a super-spreader event in the White House,” he said. “And it was a situation where people were crowded together, were not wearing masks. So the data speaks for themselves.”

But figuring out exactly how many people at the event contracted COVID-19 will not be easy. Many attendees have scattered across the country, returning to their homes and their daily lives likely unaware that they had been exposed to the virus. And the White House has resisted much of the CDC’s effort to conduct contact tracing. 

“I think that it is fair to say that anybody who attended the event or worked at it could have been exposed to the virus, since it is likely that they came across others, some of whom were infected,” said Seth Welles, PhD, ScD, a professor of epidemiology and infectious disease at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health in Philadelphia. “How many have been infected is a whole other story.”

A super-spreader event is defined as when a critical number of infected individuals are in close proximity

White House, a coronavirus hot spot, is cold on contact tracing despite Donald Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis



a man holding a sign: Wearing protective suits, masks and gloves, demonstrators call attention to the outbreak of coronavirus in the White House. Photo: AP


© AP
Wearing protective suits, masks and gloves, demonstrators call attention to the outbreak of coronavirus in the White House. Photo: AP

The Trump administration’s resistance to contact tracing since the president tested positive for Covid-19 reflects a calculation that there’s little political upside in highlighting this close to the election the number of people at the pinnacle of US power potentially exposed to the virus by him, say health experts and political analysts.

Masks and contact tracing – used effectively in China, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and elsewhere – are proven tools in breaking the chain of infection in lieu of a vaccine, medical experts say. But their success can depend on many other factors.

Public health experts have traditionally focused on the profile of the virus and therapies to combat it.

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“But it turns out the most important thing in fighting it seems to be effective political leadership, and in the US we don’t have that,” said Ronald Waldman, a global health professor at George Washington University and former investigator at the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “If your primary priority is getting elected, that’s great for the virus.”

Analysts say President Donald Trump and aides appears to have concluded that robust tracing of hundreds, even thousands, placed at risk by his inner circle would only spotlight the virulence of a disease he has repeatedly downplayed, claimed would disappear or decried as a hoax.

It also could highlight his controversial policies and behaviour, and the particular vulnerability of top Republicans central to his legacy and re-election effort, they add, hardly a good look for a president losing support in the polls.

“From the White House point of

White House now has two CDC epidemiologists helping with contact tracing

President Trump and at least 34 White House staff members and other contacts have tested positive for the virus, according to Wednesday’s senior leadership brief on the covid-19 response prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Some of those people are suspected of having become infected at White House and Republican National Committee events.

The White House by Tuesday completed contact tracing related to the president’s infection and cases involving several other people, a senior White House official said, raising concerns among infectious-disease experts about whether a thorough investigation could be completed so quickly. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters, said anyone meeting the CDC’s definition of “close contact” with someone who tested positive had been notified and given health recommendations.

It remains unclear when the White House began contact tracing. If the effort did not begin right away, or go far back enough, infections may have been missed, experts said.

If the White House had started immediately, “then early control could have held back numbers of infections and further need for ongoing tracking,” said Jeanne Marrazzo, an infectious-diseases expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Several White House staffers and administration officials expressed anger and bewilderment that the White House had not undertaken a more robust contact-tracing effort sooner. They said many people — including White House residence staff who do not have the stature of a lawmaker or a top political aide — had not been contacted despite possible exposures, putting them and others at risk in a still-growing outbreak. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

The CDC began offering help last Friday, after President Trump announced he had tested positive, only to be repeatedly spurned, according to a CDC official who spoke on

DC faults White House over Rose Garden event, says contact tracing insufficient

By ASHRAF KHALIL

WASHINGTON (AP) — In an extraordinary step, the Washington, D.C., Department of Health has released an open letter appealing to all White House staff and anyone who attended a Sept. 26 event in the Rose Garden to seek medical advice and take a COVID-19 test.

The letter indicates a lack of confidence in the White House medical team’s own contact tracing efforts regarding an ongoing virus outbreak that has infected President Donald Trump, multiple senior staff members and two U.S. senators, among others.

Co-signed by nine other local health departments from neighboring jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia, the letter flatly states a belief that contact tracing on the outbreak has been insufficient.

It says the public appeal is based on, “our preliminary understanding that there has been limited contact tracing performed to date, there may be other staff and residents at risk for exposure to COVID positive individuals.”

It asks all White House employees, anyone who attended the Sept. 26 event and anyone who may have been in contact with those people to “contact your local health department for further guidance/questions regarding your potential need to quarantine.”

The letter represents a rising level of concern and a clear shift in strategy by Mayor Muriel Bowser’s government, which had previously remained publicly hands-off and said it trusted the White House’s robust medical operation to handle its own contact tracing and follow-up.

Bowser said earlier this week that repeated attempts to contact the White House over the outbreak had received a “very cursory” response but that she believed the necessary steps were being taken.

“There are established public health protocols at the White House that are federal in nature,” Bowser said on Monday. “We assume that those protocols have been engaged.”

A Health Department spokeswoman did not respond to