Thursday, May 7, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He violated his own quarantine rules.

Yesterday, Trump met with working nurses and nurse practitioners in the Oval Office. Later, he met with Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa in the same room. Reporters and staff were present for both events. He also had lunch with Vice-President Mike Pence, and met with an unspecified number of intelligence briefers.

Today, Trump met with Texas governor Greg Abbott in an Oval Office meeting, with reporters and aides for both men present. Several hours later, he took part in a Rose Garden prayer service with his wife, Melania Trump. Reporters, Vice-President Pence and his wife, and a dozen faith leaders were present.

The significance of these meetings is that Trump learned yesterday, and the nation is learning today, that one of his personal valets is ill with COVID-19. White House valets are active duty members of the Navy. Among other duties, they handle Trump's food. Trump, a self-described "germophobe," was reportedly furious when he learned that the valet had tested positive and was showing symptoms.

As someone exposed to a known carrier, Trump's own CDC guidelines require him to self-isolate for 14 days. Since the West Wing is densely populated—almost 400 people work there on a daily basis—and social distancing is effectively impossible, this would mean Trump would need to stay in the residence and not take unnecessary in-person meetings.

Given the long incubation period of the virus, the valet could have infected Trump at any point in the last 10 days or so. Trump visited a mask factory on Tuesday, but refused to wear a mask himself, because to do so would "send the wrong message." It's not clear from Trump's comments what that message is supposed to be.

Why should I care about this?

  • The health and safety of the people who must work with him is more important than Donald Trump's self-image.
  • Presidents are not above the law, including the laws of nature.
  • The time to get angry about the spread of COVID-19 was several months ago.