White House failure to contact trace stirs contempt

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump reacts to a question during a news conference in the Briefing Room of the White House on September 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Politicians, public health officials, and commentators are lambasting the White House’s failure to provide adequate contact tracing and guidance for thousands of people whose well-being was jeopardized last week after President Donald Trumptraveled to multiple events around the country, at least one of which he participated in even after knowing that he had been exposed to the coronavirus. 

While the contradictory information shared by the Trump administration and medical team about the chronology and status of Trump’s illness has puzzled observers, critics said it is clear that the president chose to expose potentially thousands of people to Covid-19 last week—particularly by interacting with hundreds of guests at a fundraiser he hosted at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf course on Thursday evening—instead of quarantining immediately after the Thursday morning diagnosis of his adviser, Hope Hicks, as Common Dreams reported. 

“The scope of the damage here is unfathomable,” writer Rebecca Traister tweeted on Saturday.

Related Articles

Not only did Trump and other infected members of his inner circle put possibly thousands of individuals at risk of contracting Covid-19, but according to reportingfrom the Washington Post, “there was little evidence on Saturday that the White House or the campaign had reached out to these potentially exposed people, or even circulated guidance to the rattled staffers within the White House complex.”


Why Won’t the White House Let the CDC Contact Trace Its Rose Garden Event?

But Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court.

—Edgar Allen Poe, “The Masque of the Red Death”

It is now more than a week since the White House hosted a Rose Garden ceremony to announce and celebrate the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett. More than a dozen people who attended have tested positive for Covid since then, including the president of the United States, his campaign manager Bill Stepien, and his press secretary Kayleigh McEnamy, making this a possible “superspreader event.”

The Centers for Disease Control, standing by to send in a contact tracing team, has been rebuffed. In any other administration, we would call that very odd. In this administration, we call it unsurprising. Dr. Sean Conley said that contact tracing is underway internally, but multiple news sources have tried and failed to find anyone present at the event who was interrogated, and Conley’s reputation for truthfulness has taken a few hits this past weekend. CNN reports that it interviewed “more than half a dozen people who came into contact with Trump over the past week” yet “uncovered little more than a few phone calls and emails to potentially infected people encouraging them to get tested.”

Probably the White House is conducting something that it considers to be contact tracing. But whatever it’s doing clearly doesn’t come close to meeting the CDC’s guidelines, which is why it wants to keep the CDC out.

Why can’t real contact tracing take place? Because that would require various parties, starting with the president, to speak truthfully about when they learned they’d been exposed to someone with Covid; when they got