After President Trump disclosed that he and the first lady of the United States tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday, Oct. 2, physicians, scientists and public health experts took to social media and TV networks to discuss the information made publicly available about his clinical state.
The coronavirus is known for its ability to cause debilitating symptoms, long-term ramifications and even death. When the President became ill, it therefore brought into question the meaning of his diagnosis for the future of his campaign and presidency. It remains unknown exactly where and how Trump and his wife contracted the virus. But the Trumps’ diagnosis and the Sept. 26 Rose Garden ceremony that announced Amy Coney Barrett as Supreme court nominee were only six days apart, which stirred alarm among experts.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, dubbed the ceremony a “superspreader event.” Within a matter of days, at least eight of the event’s attendees tested positive for the virus. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Washington Post, a total of at least 34 members of the White House staff and contacts to the President have also tested positive.
Esther Choo ’94 MED ’01, professor of Emergency Medicine at the Oregon Health & Science University, told the News that she was concerned about the lack of contact tracing done by the White House after Trump’s diagnosis. She said that she was expecting the White House to implement an efficient contact tracing program.
“It would be difficult, but not impossible,” Choo said. “You [have to] mobilize the CDC, hire professional contact tracers who can work very effectively to get people’s calendars and figure out who was working and when.”
Similarly, Yale Medical School professor Howard Forman said that the White House had an “obligation” to implement rigorous contact tracing around the President and any affected individuals in the White House.
Forman wrote in an email to the News that contract tracing would have helped to identify more infected individuals, protect their loved ones and, possibly, ensure access to earlier treatment for those suffering from the virus. Even after the President’s return to the White House, Forman wrote that it is not clear that the Trump administration will implement these effective contact tracing strategies.
“I think this is going to be almost like a superspreader week, or superspreader era, and I don’t know that we’ll ever know the extent because they are not aggressively tracking people down, testing and putting people in quarantine,” Choo said.
Read more: Yale Daily News