Friday, October 2, 2020

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EARLY VOTING WILL BEGIN NEXT WEEK IN THESE STATES: Maine, Montana, California, Iowa, Nebraska, South Carolina, Indiana, New Mexico, Ohio, and Arizona

What did Donald Trump do today?

He began the day announcing he had COVID-19, and ended it in the hospital.

At 12:54 A.M. EDT today, Trump announced that he and Melania Trump had tested positive for COVID-19. This came just hours after news leaked that one of his closest aides, Hope Hicks, had tested positive. 

Hicks had been quarantined aboard Air Force One on Wednesday, meaning the White House was aware of Trump's exposure by then. Trump held two in-person campaign events on Thursday, after Hicks had privately disclosed that she had tested positive. It was only after news broke publicly of Hicks's condition that Trump announced he would be quarantining. He announced his own positive test a few hours later.

Aides to Trump said he had already seemed unwell and exhausted on Wednesday. His rally speech that day was half the normal length. 

Hicks's illness was already awkward for Trump, in that he had long ago abandoned any attempt to contain the disease. Instead, his example to Americans since early summer has been to essentially pretend that COVID-19 doesn't exist. He mocked Joe Biden on Tuesday's debate for wearing a mask, the single most effective means of preventing transmission. (Given the incubation period of the virus, it is possible Trump was already infected at that point.) 

But by this evening, Hicks was one of only a dozen people in Trump's company recently to announce a positive test. Among them are a number of people who had no choice but to be in Trump's presence—three reporters and a low-level White House employee. But the list also includes two senators—Mike Lee (R-UT) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), the president of Notre Dame, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, RNC chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, and Trump's political surrogate Kellyanne Conway

Most of the names known so far were present at the Saturday Rose Garden event in which Trump announced his nomination of a Supreme Court justice, as this photograph from Politico makes clear:

That event, which featured closely-spaced and unmasked attendees, was much like the rallies Trump has been holding all summer. The first such rally resulted in the death of former presidential candidate Herman Cain, who is the same age as Trump. In recent weeks, with Trump falling into dangerous electoral territory, he's ramped up the events, which has alarmed even Republican officials with their potential to act as super-spreader events.

This afternoon, the White House announced that Trump would be admitted to Walter Reed hospital. He was able to walk to the helicopter under his own power and record an 18-second message without obvious distress, which are encouraging signs. 

But there were troubling signs as well. The Trump White House—not known for its candor about Trump's health—acknowledged that Trump had received, under a "compassionate use" waiver, a course of an experimental antibody treatment. Normally, compassionate use waivers are granted only in life-threatening circumstances, when a patient is so seriously ill that the risk of using an untested drug is justified.

It's not clear if that was the case, or whether Trump simply "pulled rank" and got access to a drug that literally no other person outside of a 300-person clinical trial has ever had. One thing that's certain is that a waiver like Trump received normally takes much more than a few hours to get. The CEO of the drug company is a member of Trump's Westchester club and knows him personally.

It is important to note that Trump, who has the best health care on the planet, is very likely to survive the illness. There are concerns: he is male, he is obese, he has heart disease, and he is widely suspected of having a cerebrovascular condition, all of which increase his risk of serious complications. But on the whole, as few as 2% of people Trump's age die from COVID.

That said, assuming he does survive, Trump is very likely to face lasting health challenges as a result, including cognitive impairment and extreme fatigue.

Why does this matter?

  • Like almost all cases of COVID-19 contracted in late 2020, this could have been prevented in early 2020.
  • Negligently exposing people to a potentially fatal illness you have good reason to think you have is evil, if not criminal.
  • The health and safety of the American people—including Donald Trump—is more important than Donald Trump's political survival.