Outbreak

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

D.C. reports increased demand for coronavirus tests amid White House outbreak

A testing site outside the White House on Friday urged anyone who had worked or visited to get tested. That site conducted only 80 tests, far below the hundreds processed at other locations, said Susana Castillo, a Bowser spokeswoman.

The city will not operate a testing site near the White House this week.

The increase in testing demand comes as D.C. is seeing a rise in infections this month. The city was reporting a rolling seven-day average of 5.3 cases per 100,000 residents on Oct. 1 — a number that had risen to 9.5 as of Saturday.

City officials offered no explanation for the increasing caseload, and it’s unclear whether the rise is connected to the White House outbreak. Only D.C. residents appear in the city’s count, and many federal officials declare residency elsewhere.

The rise in testing might also be catching more coronavirus cases. The rate of people testing positive has ticked up from 1.6 percent on Sept. 28 to 1.9 percent as of Thursday.

The greater Washington region reported 1,396 additional coronavirus cases and seven new deaths Monday. Virginia added 854 cases and three deaths, Maryland added 504 cases and four deaths, and D.C. added 38 cases and no deaths.

While the number of fatalities reported Monday was well below the region’s seven-day average of 19 deaths, it lifted the total number of deaths in D.C., Maryland and Virginia since the start of the pandemic to more than 8,000.

The rolling seven-day average of new daily infections across the region Monday stood at 1,651 cases — the highest since Sept. 18.

While caseloads have ticked upward, D.C. on Tuesday will begin to reopen a slate of gyms and indoor swimming pools at city-owned recreation centers. Residents must book 45-minute appointments up to seven days in advance to ensure

Fauci calls White House outbreak a coronavirus superspreader event

More than 150 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. Most of them were maskless. Many hugged or shook hands as they mingled in close proximity.

Some attendees even celebrated inside the White House, without masks.

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the nomination ceremony was a coronavirus superspreader event. The term refers to a circumstance in which one person infects a disproportionately large number of others, often during a large gathering.

“The data speak for themselves,” Fauci told CBS News in a radio interview on Friday.

Within five days of the event, both the president and the first lady, Melania Trump, were diagnosed with COVID-19. The outbreak has hit at least 34 people in the president’s orbit, including White House staffers, bodyguards, and family members, as well as pastors, journalists, GOP senators, and advisors.

The identity of the person or people who were first infected, however, is unknown.

Defining a superspreader

rose garden barrett

Judge Amy Coney Barrett speaks in the White House’s Rose Garden on September 26 after President Donald Trump nominated her to the Supreme Court.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty


The term superspreader refers to an infected person who transmits the virus to more people than the average patient does. For the coronavirus, that average number, known as R0 (pronounced “R-naught”), has seemed to hover between 2 and 2.5. So anyone who passes the virus to three people or more could be considered a superspreader.

A superspreader event, then, is a set of circumstances that facilitates excessive transmission. In one well-known example, a person transmitted the virus to 52 others during a choir practice in March

White House Outbreak May Have Spread Coronavirus To Other Communities : Shots

Numerous people have tested positive after attending an event in the Rose Garden at the White House on Sept. 26 to announce the nomination of Seventh U.S. Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Numerous people have tested positive after attending an event in the Rose Garden at the White House on Sept. 26 to announce the nomination of Seventh U.S. Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The White House’s apparent failures to thoroughly contact trace its current coronavirus outbreak has led local health officers to take matters into their own hands.

The District of Columbia and nine neighboring jurisdictions are calling on White House staff and visitors who might be connected to the recent outbreak there to contact their local health departments.

“We recommend that if you have worked in the White House in the past two weeks, attended the Supreme Court announcement in the Rose Garden on Saturday, September 26, 2020, and/or have had close contact with others who work in those spaces or attended those events, you should get a test for COVID,” the health officers wrote in a letter shared by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser early Thursday morning.

The authors note that this recommendation is being made based on “our preliminary understanding that there has been limited contact tracing performed to date.”

Thirty-seven White House staff and other contacts have tested positive, according to a website tracking the outbreak, citing public information such as media reports and tweets. Eleven of those positive cases are connected to the Amy Coney Barrett nomination event in the Rose Garden on September 26, according to the tracker, from which many attendees flew home to other states.

Emergency physician Leana

D.C.-area health departments fault contact-tracing efforts amid White House coronavirus outbreak

ASSOCIATED PRESS



a group of people in a park: President Donald Trump, center, stands with Judge Amy Coney Barrett as they arrive for a Sept. 26 ceremony to announce Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court, in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington.


© Associated Press
President Donald Trump, center, stands with Judge Amy Coney Barrett as they arrive for a Sept. 26 ceremony to announce Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court, in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington.

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.

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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.

News Pulse: White House is not tracing contacts of guests and staff at Rose Garden event 10 days ago: New York Times

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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