Trump Won’t Be Getting a Coronavirus Test, His Doctor Says
But hours later, just before midnight, the White House physician released a statement saying Mr. Trump would not be tested — nor would he self-quarantine — even as it became apparent that he had interacted with not one but with at least two infected members of the Brazilian delegation that visited his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida last weekend.
Mr. Trump’s interactions with the infected individuals qualified as “LOW risk,” wrote Sean P. Conley, the White House physician, so quarantine was not recommended. He added that because the president continued to show no symptoms of the virus, “testing for Covid-19 is not currently indicated.” Other medical experts have recommended testing for asymptomatic people who could still spread the virus to others.
Pressure on Mr. Trump to get tested has been growing since he came into contact with Fabio Wajngarten, a top communications aide to President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, who tested positive days after a visit last weekend to Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. At Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Wajngarten participated in meetings with the president and posed for a photograph with Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Two more Brazilian officials who were pictured at an outdoor table with Mr. Trump said Friday night that they had also tested positive for the virus.
Senators Rick Scott of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina both announced on Thursday plans to self-quarantine because of potential contact with Mr. Wajngarten, and Mr. Bolsonaro was also tested for the virus. He announced Friday that he had tested negative.
But Mr. Trump said he was dubious of Mr. Wajngarten’s condition, and on Friday played down his interactions with him. “There was somebody that they say has it,” he said. “I have no idea who he is. I take pictures and it lasts for literally seconds.”
In one photograph, which Mr. Wajngarten posted on social media, the Brazilian official is standing shoulder to shoulder with Mr. Trump, who is clutching a brown “Make Brazil Great Again” baseball cap.
A video from the event also showed Mr. Wajngarten standing directly behind Mr. Trump and Mr. Bolsonaro as they addressed a crowd. Dr. Conley conceded in his letter that Mr. Trump had “spent more time in closer proximity” with one of the other dinner guests who later tested positive.
Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, declined to say whether any members of the president’s family or his administration would undergo testing. A spokeswoman for Mr. Pence did not respond to questions about whether he would submit himself to a coronavirus test.
Mr. Trump’s news conference took place on a warm, springlike day, with cherry blossoms blooming, a balmy backdrop that belied the anxiety gripping the nation. Governors across the country had ordered schools to close, and people nationwide had been ordered to work from home indefinitely.
At the news conference, Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said nursing homes should temporarily restrict all visitors and nonessential personnel from their facilities.
But Mr. Trump and the clutch of aides that stood around him seemed like they were beaming in from a less precarious time and place. For all of the recommendations about social distancing and the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to replace handshakes with elbow taps, the president insisted on shaking hands with the chief executives who joined him on the dais.
Behind Mr. Trump, the group huddled closely together, not six feet apart, as guidance suggests.
When the chief executive of a medical home visit company offered Mr. Trump the recommended elbow bump instead of his hand, the president chuckled. “I like that,” he said, as if it were the first time he was witnessing the gesture.
The news conference, which Mr. Trump announced earlier in the day on Twitter, was something of a do-over, after his Oval Office address on Wednesday evening, which was filled with inaccuracies and was generally seen as a failed opportunity to demonstrate leadership or offer guidance during a time of crisis.
On Thursday, advisers planned an announcement that new tests for the coronavirus would be available soon, hoping it would put to bed recriminations about the insufficient availability of test kits that has left health officials largely blind to the virus’s domestic spread. But Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and Hope Hicks, a top adviser who recently returned to the White House, were still working with the president on the details of his announcement until curtain time.
And the tone quickly shifted when Mr. Trump took questions from reporters.
“I don’t take responsibility at all,” the president said when pressed about whether he was responsible for delays in testing. He also claimed to have no knowledge of why, in 2018, his administration dismantled a pandemic response team that was once part of the National Security Council.
“It’s a nasty question,” Mr. Trump shot back. “You say we did that. I don’t know anything about it.”
The president’s defensive responses echoed how he began his day, when he blamed President Barack Obama for a severe shortage in test kits — a charge that did little to rebut critics who say that his administration has moved too slowly to ensure a mass national testing ability.
“For decades the @CDCgov looked at, and studied, its testing system, but did nothing about it,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “It would always be inadequate and slow for a large scale pandemic, but a pandemic would never happen, they hoped. President Obama made changes that only complicated things further.”
The president also pointed to the 2009 swine flu outbreak in the United States that left more than 12,000 people dead, saying that Mr. Obama had mismanaged it.
“Their response to H1N1 Swine Flu was a full scale disaster, with thousands dying, and nothing meaningful done to fix the testing problem, until now,” he continued. “The changes have been made and testing will soon happen on a very large scale basis. All Red Tape has been cut, ready to go!”
But Mr. Obama’s acting health secretary declared a public health emergency in April 2009, when only 20 known cases of the virus existed and before anyone in the United States had died of it. Mr. Obama declared a national emergency six months later, after hundreds of fatalities.
Former Obama officials said that Mr. Trump was making false charges which, even if true, would not account for his failure to act sooner.
“This is a typical Trump move to blame the previous administration,” said Ezekiel J. Emanuel, a former White House health policy adviser. “We are now more than three years into his administration. He’s had plenty of time to rectify any problems. So it’s hard to blame someone else.”
Maggie Haberman contributed reporting from New York, and Michael Crowley from Washington.
Source: Read Full Article