COVID is Still Raging Across the Country—And Inside the White House

COVID is Still Raging Across the Country—And Inside the White House
In the midst of Donald Trump’s post-election litigation blitz, another outbreak of the coronavirus is reportedly spreading in the White House. According to Bloomberg, the president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, is one of at least five White House officials who has tested positive for COVID-19, a diagnosis Meadows received on Wednesday after spending election night in the White House Residence with all of the family principles as well as in the East Room for Trump’s 2:30 a.m. address. The chief of staff was reportedly not wearing a mask on Tuesday and was again without a face covering when he returned to campaign headquarters on Wednesday.

Not only did Meadows decide against issuing a statement after testing positive for the coronavirus—he instead told a small circle of advisers after Election Day, who were instructed to keep quiet—but apparently took pains to conceal his active infection from other administration staffers. New York’s Olivia Nuzzi reported that “Meadows and the White House went to great lengths to keep his diagnosis a secret. This is despite alleged contact tracing efforts.” Jennifer Jacobs, part of the Bloomberg team that broke the story, notes that putting out a statement immediately following his diagnosis would have allowed the many aides excluded from the White House Medical Unit’s guidance for contact tracing but who had been in direct contact with Meadows to take precautions. White House and campaign staffers, already dealing with a political crisis as their boss attempts to challenge ballot counts in several battleground states, instead learned of the latest outbreak when it was reported by the media. This is not the first time that West Wing aides have found out about a positive diagnosis in their midst from Jacobs, Nuzzi pointed out, nor is it the administration’s first attempt to “keep a coronavirus outbreak a secret from people who work in the White House and might have contracted the virus from the official who tested positive.”

The latest White House outbreak is a pointed reminder that the pandemic is still raging, drowned out by election coverage this week but quietly surging across much of the country, which on Friday reported more than 100,000 new infections for the third straight day and more than 1,000 deaths for the fourth straight day. At least 24 states recorded more cases in the past week than in any other seven-day stretch since the start of the pandemic, per the New York Times. “I feel like this is the background and we’re all focused on those results and the pandemic, the virus doesn’t care what we’re doing,” said MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, who broke from election coverage on Friday to highlight a grim increase in hospitalizations. The virus, Hayes remarked, “doesn’t care about our elections, it doesn’t care about what party people vote for,” a reality evidenced by Rachel Maddow’s disappearance from the network later that night due to potential virus exposure. MSNBC’s biggest star said in a statement on Friday evening that she was placing herself under quarantine after someone close to her tested positive for COVID-19, noting she had “tested negative thus far” but would be at home until “it’s safe for me to be back at work without putting anyone at risk.”

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