- President Donald Trump on Friday announced he and the first lady, Melania Trump, had tested positive for COVID-19.
- His announcement came shortly after news broke that one of his advisers, Hope Hicks, tested positive for the virus.
- Hicks accompanied Trump on trips on Tuesday and Wednesday and was in close proximity to numerous White House aides and campaign staff members.
- Anne Rimoin, an epidemiology professor at the University of California at Los Angeles’ Fielding School of Public Health, says there needs to be widespread testing and quarantining to ensure the virus doesn’t spread further.
- She also said it could be a chance for Trump to change course on his pandemic rhetoric.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
President Donald Trump announced early Friday that he and Melania Trump had tested positive for COVID-19.
Earlier, on Thursday night, Trump had said he and the first lady would be quarantining as they awaited test results following a positive test by the White House counselor, Hope Hicks.
That was the first time Trump confirmed plans to quarantine after coming in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.
Both Trump and Hicks attended numerous large gatherings in the past few days.
Hicks accompanied Trump aboard Air Force One to and from Tuesday night’s presidential debate. On Wednesday, Hicks also traveled with Trump and attended a Trump rally in Minnesota, CNN reported.
“I just went for a test and we’ll see what happens, I mean, who knows,” Trump said before getting the positive test result. “I spent a lot of time with Hope and so does the first lady, and she’s tremendous.”
White House officials have been aware since Wednesday evening that Hicks had the virus, according to The New York Times. Hicks also told people close to her that she was experiencing some of the symptoms of COVID-19, Bloomberg News reported.
Anne Rimoin, an epidemiology professor at the University of California at Los Angeles’ Fielding School of Public Health, told Insider that the White House should have disclosed the positive result sooner.
“I think that this is a perfect example of the sooner that you have information, the sooner that you can act on the information of course,” she said. “People should know immediately. I mean the sooner the people who have been in contact with Hope Hicks can isolate themselves and protect their families and their communities, their coworkers, the better.
“So if they knew last night, they should have let people know immediately. She’s been in a lot of places with a lot of people.”
Contact tracing is critical to make sure the virus doesn’t spread
Rimoin said it’s especially critical to identify and contact everyone who had been within 6 feet of Hicks for more than 15 minutes for at least two days before the positive test, as people can be infectious even without showing symptoms.
For a similar reason she added that those who came in contact with Hicks should quarantine even if their initial tests came back negative, as testing is sensitive and may not detect the virus until a few days following infection.
“She’s been on a helicopter, she’s been on Air Force One,” Rimoin said. “So there’s certainly potential for a lot of exposure here. When she actually tested positive is going to be important.”
Rimoin added that if she were in control, she would have everyone who recently had contact with either Hicks or those who had contact with Hicks be tested and quarantined, including Joe Biden and his team who were at Tuesday’s debate.
Mask use might have limited the spread
News of Trump’s positive test quickly drew attention to ways he’d played down the virus in the US and discouraged measures meant to contain its spread.
“Donald Trump has fostered a culture that doesn’t encourage mask-wearing,” Rimoin said. “I’m looking at the television right now with Hope Hicks walking with Jared Kushner and other people on his team — nobody’s wearing a mask.”
She added: “Masks are important, and so by the president not setting a good example it is actually helping the virus to spread. This is where it becomes so important to have good leadership and good examples from the very top because this culture of not wearing a mask is certainly putting many people in danger. It’s very irresponsible.”
Rimoin, however, described Trump’s positive test in part as an opportunity to change his rhetoric on the pandemic, which has infected more than 7.2 million Americans and killed more than 200,000.
“This is a critical moment,” she said. “It’s better to learn sooner than later. And the example that Donald Trump and the entire White House should be setting is one of social responsibility and good public-health guidance.”