As daily confirmed coronavirus cases continue to break records, a new cluster of cases was reported in the White House — meaning the Trump administration, again, has failed to control the spread of Covid-19 within its own circles, while struggling to reduce cases throughout the country.
Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs reported Friday evening that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday, one day after attending an election night party at the White House alongside hundreds of unmasked guests. Administration officials said four other staffers also tested positive.
Meadows has had a number of exposures since February: an interaction with an infected person at the 2020 Conservative Political Action Convention forced him — and other GOP leaders — to quarantine. He was also in close contact with President Donald Trump after the president was diagnosed with Covid-19 in early October. Meadows had, until now, avoided becoming infected himself.
The White House is doing little to stop the spread of Covid-19 — in the country and in the White House
Meadow’s diagnosis comes less than two weeks after he admitted to CNN’s Jake Tapper that the administration isn’t going to control the pandemic.
“We are not going to control the pandemic,” Meadows said. “We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics, and other mitigation areas.” He also claimed that the US would not be able to get the coronavirus under control “because it is a contagious virus.”
MEADOWS: We're not going to control the pandemic— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 25, 2020
TAPPER: Why not?
M: Because it's a contagious virus
T: Why not make efforts to contain it?
M: What we need to do is make sure we have the proper mitigation factors to make sure people don't die pic.twitter.com/0DYgk4rB3T
But there is a way to get the pandemic under control: doing the opposite of the behavior Trump administration officials have been modeling.
The first White House Covid-19 cluster arose shortly after the White House held a large maskless gathering to celebrate the nomination of Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Trump and first lady Melania Trump both tested positive for the virus after the event, with the president spending several days in the hospital.
Several other White House staffers and Republican leaders who attended the ceremony also tested positive, including former New Jersey governor and Trump ally Chris Christie. Christie spent several days in an intensive care unit.
And in late October, several members of Vice President Mike Pence’s staff tested positive.
There’s a reason this keeps happening over and over to those in Trump’s and the White House’s orbit: They simply don’t follow basic protection measures. This was evident on Tuesday night, when Trump held an election night event at the White House, with several hundred maskless people packed into a tight room. There were speeches as well as chanting — two activities known to increase the risk of spread.
Guests were reportedly tested before the event began, but as Vox’s Brian Resnick has explained, a negative test result doesn’t mean it is safe to mingle with others. And the new cases mean that those who were in attendance Tuesday are now at risk of having been infected.
More than 120,000 Americans tested positive for Covid-19 Friday, a new record high. It was the third consecutive day with over 100,000 new cases reported. Friday also saw at least 1,180 deaths from the virus, the highest since mid-September. Experts predict that case and death numbers will only rise as fall turns to winter.
In the face of this reality, Trump has continued to downplay the virus, and some of his advisers have pressed for more reopening. The president returned to Washington, DC, after holding nearly 20 large, mostly maskless rallies in the final days before Election Day. A recent study found that the president’s rallies over the summer may have caused an estimated 700 deaths. And in late July, Trump ally Herman Cain passed away from the virus shortly after attending a Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Trump and company have downplayed virus prevention methods and urged a return to “normalcy” after months of lockdown. The president has done so even more since becoming infected himself, telling supporters, “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.”
But the problem with ignoring the advice of public health experts and living as one would normally is that the coronavirus is not yet under control. For as long as the pandemic persists, there will not be a return to normal. That’s not a political stance, it’s just reality. The virus does not operate based on White House spin, and the repeated outbreaks there, and around the country, prove it.