What large gatherings can teach us about the spread of coronavirus

It’s looking increasingly likely that a Rose Garden event late last month was ground zero for a spate of coronavirus infections spreading among those with close ties to the White House, including President Trump himself.



a group of people jumping in the air


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Some 200 people gathered for the nomination ceremony for Judge Amy Coney Barrett on September 26.

So far, at least ten people who attended that event have tested positive for the virus, including the President, the first lady, Sen. Mike Lee from Utah and Sen. Thom Tillis from North Carolina, Trump’s debate sparring partner and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway, megachurch pastor Greg Laurie, and John Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, along with an unnamed journalist. Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany joined the growing list Monday.

Others who recently spent time with people in this group (but did not attend the ceremony) have tested positive too, including Trump adviser Hope Hicks, as well as the Republican National Committee chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, and Trump’s assistant, Nicholas Luna.

Even though the ceremony was held outdoors and many attendees were tested before being allowed in, photos and videos of the event show few people wearing masks, many people greeting each other with hugs and handshakes, and people mingling and sitting very closely. If we have learned anything over the last few months, it’s that we should maintain physical distance with other people, keep our contact with them brief, and wear a mask.

But we may not know for a while what the exact consequences of the Rose Garden ceremony are, because it does not appear that the White House is conducting thorough contact tracing. That’s according to reports from attendees of the event, who say they either haven’t been contacted at all or they weren’t asked the questions typically used to document who else may have been exposed through contact.

Rallies paused

Trump’s reluctance to follow these basic public health recommendations has long been a source of concern and consternation for public health experts, doctors, politicians and others — especially because his failure to lead by example might encourage his supporters to follow suit.

Nowhere is this more apparent than at his rallies where thousands of his supporters crowd together, often maskless, to listen to what he has to say.

The President’s illness forced him to postpone two rallies he had planned for last weekend in Wisconsin.

Some local Wisconsin officials may be breathing a sigh of relief. The state is in the middle of a coronavirus surge, according to public health officials, and hosting two large rallies was not at the top of public officials’ wish list.

The mayors of both host cities had asked the President not to come and the governor said Thursday it made no sense for the President to hold rallies in “two of the hottest of hot spots.”

Public health experts agreed.

“The idea of holding a large gathering, which brings in many people

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