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Health officials contacting over 200 people who attended Trump fundraiser hours before he announced he had Covid-19

Controversy has been mounting over the possibility the US President might have exposed numerous others to the virus.

Trump was taken to hospital on Friday.
Trump was taken to hospital on Friday.
Image: PA Images

HEALTH OFFICIALS IN the US are contacting more than 200 people who attended a campaign fundraiser at the Trump National Golf Course in New Jersey on Thursday, hours before President Donald Trump announced he had Covid-19.

Controversy has been mounting over the possibility that Trump might have exposed numerous others to Covid-19 even after a close aide tested positive.

A timeline provided by his advisors and doctors suggested he met more than 30 donors on Thursday in Bedminster, New Jersey, even after learning that Hope Hicks had the virus — and just hours before he announced his own positive test.

There were more than 200 people at the fundraiser, and a contact-tracing operation is underway amid the possibility that thousands of people were exposed.

All this came in a week when a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll — taken in the two days after the chaotic presidential debate with Jor Biden but before news emerged of Trump’s illness — gave Biden a significant 53-39% lead among registered voters.

As well as Trump and Hicks, numerous White House insiders and at least three Republican senators have contracted Covid-19, along with First Lady Melania Trump, who has not experienced severe symptoms.

Angry backlash

Trump sparked an angry backlash from the medical community yesterday after a protocol-breaking visit to his supporters outside the hospital where he is being treated for the highly-infectious virus.

He was masked as he waved from inside his bulletproof vehicle during the short trip outside Walter Reed military medical centre near Washington DC, which appeared designed to take back the narrative on his improving health after a weekend of muddled messaging from his doctors.

The last-minute limousine outing came with Trump’s doctors satisfied enough about his progress to suggest the possibility of his being discharged today.

But experts complained that the outing broke his own government’s public health guidelines requiring patients to isolate while they are in treatment and still shedding virus — and endangered his Secret Service protection.

Trump, who has been repeatedly rebuked for flouting public health guidelines and spreading misinformation on the pandemic, said in a video posted on Twitter just before the appearance that he had “learned a lot about Covid” by “really going to school” as he has battled the virus.

But health experts took to the airwaves and social media to criticise the “stunt”, which they said demonstrated that he had learned nothing at all.

2.55882866 Trump sparked an angry backlash after a protocol-breaking visit to his supporters outside the hospital where he is being treated for the highly-infectious virus. Source: PA Images

“Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days,” James Phillips, chief of disaster medicine at George Washington University, said.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said “appropriate” precautions had been taken to protect Trump and his support staff, including protective gear.

“The movement was cleared by the medical team as safe to do,” he added.

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But Zeke Emanuel, chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania and regular TV pundit, described the appearance as “shameful”.

“Making his Secret Service agents drive with a COVID-19 patient, with windows up no less, put them needlessly at risk for infection. And for what? A PR stunt,” he tweeted.

Meanwhile, Biden — who yesterday announced his latest negative test for the virus — will start the week with a trip to key swing state Florida today.

© AFP 2020

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