dismal

Why the Rose Garden COVID-19 fiasco was dismal news for the return of live entertainment

At the celebratory judicial nomination event for Amy Coney Barrett, scores of maskless, prominent Americans–elected officials, high-ranking staffers, the President of the University of Notre Dame–were seen hugging, kissing and other examples of the up-close-and-personal behavior most ordinary Americans are avoiding in service of personal and community safety. It looked like no one at the Sept. 26 event in the White House Rose Garden had paid any mind whatsoever to the potential ravages of COVID-19 at a nomination celebration for a member of the United States Supreme Court.

Although it certainly fits the broader political narrative on both sides, this wasn’t entirely true.

Attendees were actually given rapid Coronavirus tests, developed by Abbott Laboratories of Lake Bluff, prior to admittance. As the Wall Street Journal and others have reported, a guest took Abbott’s so-called ID NOW test, waited around for a few minute for the result, and, in the event of their negativity, was told that they could make their way into the event without worrying about infection. In an apologetic subsequent homily, Rev. John I. Jenkins of Notre Dame said he had removed his mask (the regulations on his own campus notwithstanding) because he had been told by the White House it was safe to do so.

Wrong choice. In hindsight.

While it rarely has been entirely clear who infected whom where in this crisis, and that is true here, the evidence of multiple infections at this event suggest that the hopeful idea that rapid tests could be used as a kind of instant pandemic metal detector, a notion that has been floated well beyond the White House, is not a viable plan. The virus appears to be way too tricky a beast for that hopeful solution to our current problem.

These rapid tests have been especially beguiling to