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.
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.
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