Fauci says White House COVID-19 infections could have been prevented

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Top U.S. infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, whose advocacy of public health guidelines to fight the coronavirus has conflicted with President Donald Trump’s downplaying of the pandemic, said on Tuesday the recent rash of infections at the White House could have been prevented.



Anthony S. Fauci wearing a suit and tie: Fauci, Redfield testify at U.S. Senate hearing on coronavirus response in Washington


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Fauci, Redfield testify at U.S. Senate hearing on coronavirus response in Washington

Several close aides to Trump and senior Republican politicians have tested positive for the coronavirus since the Republican president announced on Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump had contracted the virus.

“Take a look at what happened this week at the White House,” Fauci said in an interview with American University’s Kennedy Political Union, when asked what advice he had about how people could discuss preventive actions with relatives who believed the pandemic was a hoax.

“That is a reality, right there. And every day that goes by more people are popping up that are infected. It’s not a hoax. It’s an unfortunate situation when you see something like that because that could have been prevented,” Fauci said.

Fauci has been a long-time advocate of wearing face masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Trump returned to the White House on Monday from a military hospital where he spent three nights being treated for COVID-19, telling Americans “to get out there” and not let their lives be dominated by the virus.

Video: Trump has ‘no symptoms,’ returns to downplaying virus (Associated Press)

Trump has ‘no symptoms,’ returns to downplaying virus

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He left hospital wearing a mask, but removed it to posed for pictures on the White House balcony and did not put it back on when he entered the building.

The president, who is trailing his Democratic rival Joe Biden ahead of the Nov. 3 election, has pushed for quicker reopening of the economy and schools and accused Democrats of preventing that for political purposes.

Trump rarely wears a mask in public, and there is often little social distancing at his campaign rallies and White House events.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has ascribed a surge in coronavirus infection in part to the country’s failure to shut down completely.

More than 210,000 people in the United States have been killed by the coronavirus and more than 7 million infected, more than any other country.

White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, a top speechwriter for Trump and an influential adviser on Trump’s hardline immigration policy, on Tuesday became the latest COVID case reported among Trump associates. [L1N2GX2HH]

Others announcing they had tested positive in recent days include close Trump adviser Hope Hicks; White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany; Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien; and Republican Senators Mike Lee, Thom Tillis and Ron Johnson.

(Reporting by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Mary Milliken and Michael Perry)

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Trump team’s infections raise questions about Covid-19 aboard ‘the flying White House’

The positive coronavirus test for a high-profile Air Force One passenger raises the possibility that has concerned aviation experts for months: that the virus can easily spread inside a confined aircraft cabin.



a large passenger jet sitting on top of a runway: DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 16: Air Force One is seen for  U.S. President Donald Trump's visit to the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2020 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)


© Chris Graythen/Getty Images
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 16: Air Force One is seen for U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2020 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Experts fear the infection potentially puts at risk hundreds of people who travel on, operate and maintain “the flying White House” — threatening not only a highly recognizable icon of America, but also the smooth operation of a key national security tool used to evacuate the president in a crisis.

Administration officials said Friday that presidential senior adviser Hope Hicks was showing coronavirus symptoms while she flew on the world’s most famous jet earlier this week, raising the concern her infection could be linked to the infections of President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump.

Experts have cautioned that during the pandemic, the unique air flow dynamics in the confined cabin of a jetliner — even one as large as the Boeing 747-200, known in the military as a VC-25 — could put unmasked passengers at a risk of catching the deadly virus.

Administration officials said Friday that Hicks began displaying symptoms on the flight back from the President’s Wednesday rally in Minnesota and was isolated in a separate cabin. She was seen deplaning Air Force One from a rear set of steps not typically used by the President.

“Social distancing is much easier on Air Force One than any commercial airliner,” said Professor Yan Chen of Purdue University, a researcher who studies the airborne spread of coronavirus inside an airliner. Chen said most passengers do not sit in cramped rows on board the multi-room, highly modified jet, “but complete isolation is very difficult.”

Chen said the air onboard large jets, including commercial airliners and Air Force One, is typically filtered through High Efficiency Particulate Air, or HEPA, filters, which are designed to catch most particles. The result is the air even on large planes is completely replaced every few minutes.

Air Force One also carries a special onboard oxygen system, although its capabilities aren’t clear.

Commercial airlines insist air filters make flying in a plane safer than sitting in a shared room in a building. But it does not eliminate the risk of contracting the virus when a contagious passenger is onboard.

“If you have a patient inside of an airplane, then the droplets breathed out by this patient could be transported in the airplane,” he said.

The White House said the 747 typically used as Air Force One (the term can refer to any aircraft carrying the President) features “4,000 square feet of floor space on three levels, including an extensive suite for the President that features a large office, lavatory, and conference room.” CNN journalists who

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