It appears that Donald Trump‘s rush to announce his new Supreme Court pick may be partly to blame for an outbreak of coronavirus among top US officials, with at least eight cases linked to an event in the White House Rose Garden last weekend.
Last Saturday, more than 100 people gathered in the Rose Garden to celebrate the nomination of conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett. Photos of the event show guests packed tightly together, mingling and embracing, many without masks or protective gear.
A week later, there are eight confirmed cases linked to the ceremony, the most high-profile of these being President Trump and First Lady Melania.
Yesterday, close Trump confidante Kellyanne Conway also revealed she had tested positive, after being outed by her daughter in a series of savage TikToks.
Republican senators Mike Lee and Tom Tillis have also contracted coronavirus, along with the Reverend John Jenkins of the University of Notre Dame.
New Jersey governor Chris Christie is the latest attendee to come down with COVID, and has checked into hospital as a precautionary measure.
An unnamed White House journalist who covered the event has also contracted the virus.
I just received word that I am positive for COVID-19. I want to thank all of my friends and colleagues who have reached out to ask how I was feeling in the last day or two. I will be receiving medical attention today and will keep the necessary folks apprised of my condition.
— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 3, 2020
CNN’s chief medical expert Dr Sanjay Gupta said that the Rose Garden ceremony may well prove to be a “super spreader” event, as attendees scatter far and wide, potentially infecting others. He said:
“It can be really hard, because people, if they didn’t get tested, they don’t know. They could have been spreading for a long time … With the President, if he developed symptoms Thursday, it’s usually a few days before you develop symptoms where you’re the most contagious. During that time, the President travelled to five states. He came in contact with a lot of people.”
Gupta added that contact tracing will be difficult, saying:
“It becomes increasingly challenging. The event that you’re looking at is increasingly sounding like a super spreader event. We haven’t said that very often, because it’s so hard to do contact tracing in this country.”
Presidential aide Hope Hicks, who did not attend the Rose Garden event but who has travelled extensively with Trump, announced on Thursday that she had tested positive.
The president is currently being treated in Walter Reed hospital.Image: Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla