The news of President Donald Trump and first lady, Melania, testing positive for COVID-19 has prompted backlash about the administration’s approach to the situation. According to CNN, Trump visited New Jersey for a fundraiser on Thursday despite White House officials knowing that he was recently in close contact with his aide, Hope Hicks, who confirmed she had tested positive.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who held a news briefing on Thursday without wearing a mask, didn't mention anything about Hicks' diagnosis during the press conference.
"I’m told a small group of officials were aware Thursday a.m. that Hope Hicks had tested positive," CNN correspondent Kaitlan Collins wrote on Twitter. "Despite that, President Trump traveled to New Jersey for a fundraiser and his press secretary held a briefing.
Collins added a note from a senior administration official, who said McEnany was not aware that Hicks had tested positive when she briefed Thursday.
I’m told a small group of officials were aware Thursday a.m. that Hope Hicks had tested positive. Despite that, President Trump traveled to New Jersey for a fundraiser and his press secretary held a briefing.
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) October 2, 2020
Trump, who has become notorious for downplaying the coronavirus throughout the pandemic, may have put more people at risk during his trip to New Jersey. And the press secretary is also facing criticism for possibly knowing about the situation in the White House and still potentially putting more people in danger.
"She didn't even tell us. Didn't even tell reporters who were on the plane," Collins said. "There are going to be serious questions about the White House keeping that information not just from the reporters in the room but also from the American people about the state of the health of the President and the people that he potentially came into contact with."
Trump and Melania announced their diagnosis on Twitter early Friday — a few hours after reporters broke news about Hicks' diagnosis.
Collins said the White House was hoping the information wouldn't come out.
Kaitlan Collins points out on CNN the only reason anyone knows Hope Hicks has COVID is bc reporters broke the news. The WH did not release the information. The WH withheld this information. And exposed people.
— Amanda Carpenter (@amandacarpenter) October 2, 2020
According to The New York Times, Hicks tested positive after experiencing symptoms on Wednesday while attending Trump's rally in Minnesota.
Collins described the situation as a "nightmare scenario for the West Wing."
“We had a suspicion this was in the making because they had been so quiet about what his diagnosis was, and it had taken so long to get these results that something seemed to be up,” she said.
— CNN (@CNN) October 2, 2020
According to Bloomberg, White House officials held a discussion before the diagnosis was confirmed, devising plans on how to handle governing and campaigning if the President tested positive. The few people who knew Hicks had tested positive tried to keep the information private, Bloomberg reported.
Sam Vinograd, CNN national security analyst, said the situation is “a Code Red moment for the U.S. government.”
“Knowing that the President is sick and that the pandemic is affecting personnel in the White House, this may be the most dangerous moment the U.S. government has ever faced,” she said. “The president is suffering from a deadly virus. This feels like something we should be watching on an episode of ‘Homeland.’ ”
— Sam Vinograd (@sam_vinograd) October 2, 2020
Vin Gupta, a public health physician at the University of Washington, said “the presidential race has been fundamentally altered” after the positive test, The Washington Post reported.
“There should be no more in-person gatherings for the remainder of this season,” Gupta said. “And my biggest concern here is if the President remains asymptomatic that he may use it to tamp down the seriousness of the infection."
Ironically, Trump mocked Joe Biden for wearing masks during the presidential debate on Tuesday.
"I don’t wear a mask like him," the President said. "Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from them and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”