White House not contact tracing Rose Garden event considered possible ‘superspreader’: report

The White House is not contact tracing guests and staff who attended a Rose Garden event for the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, despite many viewing it as a possible spreader of the coronavirus, The New York Times reported on Monday.

The celebration, which took place 10 days ago, is viewed by some as the potential epicenter or “superspreader” of the White House’s coronavirus outbreak because it has been followed by at least 11 attendees testing positive for COVID-19, including President TrumpDonald John TrumpLabor secretary’s wife tests positive for COVID-19 Russia shuts down Trump admin’s last-minute push to strike nuclear arms deal before election Trump makes appeal to suburban women at rally: ‘Will you please like me?’ MORE, first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpDOJ accuses ex-Melania Trump aide of violating nondisclosure agreement White House Halloween to be ‘modified’ to meet CDC guidelines: report Second GOP senator attends Barrett hearings in person after COVID-19 diagnosis MORE, adviser Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayBillboard warns Trump’s Iowa rally will be ‘superspreader event’ White House Halloween to be ‘modified’ to meet CDC guidelines: report Minnesota health officials connect COVID-19 cases to Trump, Biden campaign events MORE, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, at least three Republican senators and other White House staff.

An unnamed White House official told the Times on Monday that officials were not contact tracing those connected to the event.

Contact tracing includes public health workers trying to stop COVID-19 transmission by reaching out to people who have tested positive for the disease and asking them to both self-isolate and provide a list of people they had contact with 48 hours before becoming sick, who will, in turn, also get a call. In this way, health officials are able to stop the potential spread of the virus before it can be passed on to someone else.

The White House is still technically following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines that require contact tracing for the 48 hours leading up to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, the official told the Times. 

Public health experts have criticized the decision not to contact trace the Rose Garden event, however.

“This is a total abdication of responsibility by the Trump administration,” Boston University public health expert Joshua Barocas told the Times. 

Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Thursday, shortly after it was revealed his close aide Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksTrump slight against Gold Star families adds to military woes Trump should try a little empathy Trump Jr. returning to campaign trail after quarantining MORE had tested positive. In the following days, several others announced positive diagnoses. 

On Monday, Trump returned to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after three days of treatment.

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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 help the White House with contact tracing, The Washington Post reported. The White House initially rejected the invitation, a CDC official told The Post, but finally began cooperating with two CDC epidemiologists on Wednesday.

On Thursday, a senior White House official told The Post that the White House had finished contact tracing related to the president’s infection. But White House staffers and administration officials said that many people with potential exposure hadn’t heard from health officials yet.

Epidemiologists say attempts to identify infections at the Rose Garden ceremony may have come too late.

“It’s hard enough to do a normal contact trace. I’m in the middle of doing one right now, and it’s hard enough to do when people are cooperative and you’re doing it by the book,” Yvonne Maldonado, an epidemiology professor at Stanford University, told Business Insider. “But when you have a random email out to a bunch of people and some people might respond, some won’t, it’s going to be really hard to know.”

The administration’s delayed efforts could forever obscure the true scale of the outbreak, she added.

“I bet you we’ll never find out because you’re assuming that everybody got tested whether they had symptoms

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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 to a large group of people, allowing a virus to transfer easily. A week after the Rose Garden event, President Trump announced that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the virus. Several aides attending the ceremony, including Hope Hicks, Stephen Miller and Kayleigh McEnany, and Republican Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Mike Lee (R-UT) have also tested positive. 

“The Barrett Rose Garden event is a great example,” Dr. Welles said.

From there, it becomes a geometric progression. Early reports said that nine people, including two journalists, were infected at the ceremony. Epidemiologists know that one infected person is likely to infect two or three people, Dr. Welles said. Those two or three people are each likely to infect two or three people, and so on. And then there are those who have no symptoms; they are still capable of spreading the virus.

“The percentage of people with severe symptoms is 5% to 10% among those infected, and around 2% die,” Dr. Welles said. “It is concerning.”

Contact tracing is the best way to stop the super-spreading of a virus. It takes a lot of manpower and a good deal of training to do it right, Dr.

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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.

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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.”

“The crisis within a crisis is emblematic of an administration that has often mocked or ignored the coronavirus guidance of its own medical experts,” noted the Post. “In this case, the failure to move swiftly potentially jeopardized the health of their own supporters and those close to them, who might fall ill and unwittingly spread the infection to others.”

Traister pointed out that in addition to Trump’s supporters who voluntarily attended Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination ceremony hosted by the president in the Rose Garden on September 26, his campaign rally in Minnesota on September 30, or his fundraiser in New Jersey on October 1 just hours before the president announced that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, the families of countless workers who had no choice but to go to these infectious events will be subjected to the medical and financial consequences of the Trump administration’s negligence. 

While White House spokesperson Judd Deere claimed Saturday that “contact tracing is underway,” public officials in the states “where Trump held events in recent days… haven’t heard from the White house and are racing largely on there own to find people potentially exposed to the virus,” the Post noted. 

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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.

Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.

“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 view, it probably doesn’t make sense to pursue contact tracing,” said Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll. “A stricter testing regime risks showing second- and third-order infections. That’s not something you want to expose.”

Who in Trump’s orbit tested positive for coronavirus

But the president’s doctors’ and spin doctors’ apparent disregard for the basics of crisis management – disclose bad news fast and fully – has have been badly undercut by a drumbeat of daily headlines detailing new infections and quarantines hitting the White House, Congress, the Pentagon, presidential press corps and Secret Service.

Among the latest, the US Marine Corps’ No 2 general, Gary Thomas, said on Thursday that he had tested positive after huddling with top military leaders a week earlier.



Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: Recent news is ensuring that public attention remains focused on President Donald Trump's management of the pandemic until the November 3 election. Photo: Abaca Press/TNS


© Provided by South China Morning Post
Recent news is ensuring that public attention remains focused on President Donald Trump’s management of the pandemic until the November 3 election. Photo: Abaca Press/TNS

This drip drip of news not only ensures that public attention remains intently focused on Trump’s management of the disease until the November 3 election. It also hampers the ability of top advisers to carry out policy or craft damage control as

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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 the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. On Wednesday, an arrangement was made for “some limited CDC involvement,” the official said.

White House officials rejected the assertion they have turned down help, pointing to the CDC epidemiologist already detailed to the White House Medical Unit. That epidemiologist is leading the White House investigation and has been in communication with agency officials, according to a senior White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

White House officials said they have completed their investigation of the Rose Garden event celebrating the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett that was attended by nearly 200 people, based on photos.

The White House Medical Unit, with a staff of more than 50, has been in touch with the D.C. Department of Health and mayor’s office to report confirmed cases, the official added.

“Any positive case is taken very seriously, which is why the White House Medical Unit leads a robust contact-tracing program with CDC personnel and guidance to stop ongoing transmission,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said.

White House officials said their investigation is unlikely to find the outbreak’s source.

“There were a number of guests who

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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 questions on whether the letter had been directly sent to any White House employees or people who attended the Sept. 26 event, or if the D.C. government had been provided with a list of attendees.

The move highlights the public health dilemma faced by Bowser’s government regarding the current outbreak. The Trump White House has operated for months in open violation of several D.C. virus regulations, hosting multiple gatherings that exceeded the local 50-person limit and in which many participants didn’t wear masks.

It shines a further spotlight on the Sept. 26 Rose Garden ceremony to introduce Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. Multiple attendees, including Trump and Notre Dame University President Rev. John Jenkins, who flew in from Indiana for the ceremony, have now tested positive.

Washington’s local virus regulations don’t apply on federal property, but the current outbreak has blurred those distinctions. Trump inner-circle members like former counselor Kellyanne Conway, who has also tested positive, are D.C. residents, as are many of the staffers, employees, Secret Service members and journalists who have had close contact with infected officials.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said Monday that the White House “has established a robust contact tracing program led

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White House Forgoes Contact Tracing Of Attendees At Rose Garden Ceremony

The White House had resisted an offer from the CDC. Health officials are concerned the event might turn into a super-spreader. So far, 30 people in the Trump circle have tested positive.


The New York Times:
White House Is Not Contact Tracing ‘Super-Spreader’ Trump Rose Garden Event


Despite almost daily disclosures of new coronavirus infections among President Trump’s close associates, the White House is making little effort to investigate the scope and source of its outbreak. The White House has decided not to trace the contacts of guests and staff members at the Rose Garden celebration 10 days ago for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, where at least eight people, including the president, may have become infected, according to a White House official familiar with the plans. (Mandavilli and Tully, 10/5)


The Wall Street Journal:
White House Hasn’t Asked CDC Investigators For Covid-19 Case Tracking Help 


The White House hasn’t called on the nation’s top disease detectives to investigate a Covid-19 outbreak involving the president and several staff, though a team has been mobilized specifically for that work, according to people familiar with the matter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has readied a team of investigators but hasn’t been asked by the White House to help track down related infections since President Trump announced early Friday he and the first lady tested positive for the new coronavirus, these people said. A federal official said the CDC has been on standby. (McKay, Ballhaus and Abbott, 10/5)


Politico:
Riverside Megachurch Pastor Who Attended White House Event Contracts Covid-19


The evangelical pastor of a high-profile California megachurch with links to President Trump announced Monday he’s among those who have contracted Covid-19 following the recent White House event for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Pastor Greg Laurie of Riverside’s Harvest Christian Fellowship confirmed on his Facebook page that he tested positive for the virus over the weekend. (Marinucci, 10/5)

In related news —


Vox:
White House Ignores CDC Covid-19 Quarantine Guidelines Despite Virus Cluster


President Donald Trump’s press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, on Monday revealed she was the latest top official in the White House’s Covid-19 cluster to test positive for the coronavirus. She said in a statement that she “will begin the quarantine process.” But if McEnany had been following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, she would have quarantined days ago — when she found out she was a close contact for Hope Hicks, an aide to Trump who had already tested positive. McEnany isn’t the only person in the federal government setting a poor example, with Republican policymakers ranging from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to Attorney General Bill Barr to Vice President Mike Pence saying they won’t quarantine despite potential close contact with at least one person who tested positive for the

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White House is not contact tracing Rose Garden event and rejected CDC offer to track down those exposed to Trump: Reports

As President Trump battles COVID-19, some said the White House is not doing enough to trace those who might have come in contact with him or been otherwise exposed to the virus at the White House.



Donald Trump in a suit standing in front of a building


© Provided by Washington Examiner


At least eight people might have been infected at a Sept. 26 Rose Garden event to celebrate the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Despite this, the president’s team decided not to trace the contacts of the staff members and guests who attended the event, the New York Times reported on Monday, citing the account of a senior White House official.

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Instead, reports indicated the White House has chosen only to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which specify that contact tracing efforts should be pursued for those who had “close contact” to someone with COVID-19 within two days of their diagnosis. The president announced his diagnosis early on Friday morning.

When the Washington Examiner specifically asked the White House if it was pursuing contact tracing efforts for those who attended the Rose Garden event, White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said it was following CDC guidelines.

The White House Medical Unit rebuffed an offer from the CDC to assist in tracing the contacts of those who might have been exposed, according to multiple officials within the agency, USA Today reported Monday.

“You cannot argue against the fact that five or six people who attended that event all got infected, unless you argue that that was all random chance,” Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, an epidemiologist and contact tracing expert, told the New York Times. “There were a lot of people working at that event, and so they need to be contact tracing that whole event.”

The White House has sent out emails notifying people who attended Trump’s New Jersey fundraiser on Thursday before his positive test result came back that they might have been exposed to the virus. Some have said that’s not enough.

“I guess an email is notification of exposure,” Erin Sanders, a nurse practitioner and certified contact tracer, told the New York Times. “But that is not contact tracing.”

Deere said in a statement to the Washington Examiner on Monday evening: “The White House has plans and procedures in place that incorporate current CDC guidelines and best practices for limiting COVID-19 exposure and has established a robust contact tracing program led by the White House Medical Unit with CDC integration. Contact tracing has been conducted by the White House Medical Unit consistent with CDC guidelines and appropriate notifications and recommendations have been made.”

“The White House is following CDC guidelines and has a full-time detailed CDC epidemiologist on staff who has been here since March,” Deere said in a statement to USA Today.

The White House would not name this scientist when the New York Times asked about it.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, told CBS’s Face the Nation

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White House isn’t contact tracing its potential super spreader Rose Garden ceremony

Gallery: Trump’s COVID-19 outbreak: Who got infected? (dw.com)



a group of people standing in front of a crowd


© Provided by The Independent


At least 11 people  have tested positive for coronavirus since attending a Rose Garden ceremony on 26 September to celebrate the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, including the president, but the White House is not contact tracing the event, according to the New York Times

Instead, the White House has confined its tracing efforts to those who came into close contact with the president in the two days before his diagnosis last Thursday. That leaves out the numerous people who attended  the ceremony at the White House, many of whom weren’t wearing masks  or social distancing.  The tracing effort has also been conducted largely by email, rather than with the rigorous phone interviews public health departments usually use.

Donald Trump unveils Supreme Court pick Amy Coney Barrett

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An internal Centres for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) email the New York Times viewed shows a team of agency scientists prepared to go to Washington and assist with tracing after the president’s positive diagnosis, but a call for their help never came.  

Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said a “robust contact tracing programme” is in place, including full contact tracing for a New Jersey fundraiser Mr Trump held just before he tested positive, and that these efforts continue with the help of “CDC integration”. Two senior CDC scientists told the paper they weren’t aware of the role Mr Deere was describing for the public health watchdog.

All together, 15 members of Mr Trump’s inner circle, including the First Lady, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, and senior adviser Hope Hicks, have tested positive.

The president left Walter Reed Medical Centre on Monday and tweeted, “Don’t be afraid of Covid.”

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‘It’s certainly possible’: Trump admits Amy Coney Barrett could help reverse landmark right to choose abortion laws

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