Navigating Coronavirus — October 5

Given the urgency and severity of the news of Trump’s diagnosis, we’ll be back in your inbox on a near-daily basis for the foreseeable future, including on Wednesday with the latest Navigator polling on how the American public is viewing President Trump’s illness. In today’s email, we look at how we got to this point: with a president infected, as dozens of his allies and associates get sick and thousands more Americans continue to die.

Read on for today’s Navigating Coronavirus…

It’s been 3 days since President Trump checked in to Walter Reed hospital to receive life-saving care. In that time, more than 2,000 Americans have died from coronavirus.

It’s been 221 days since President Trump said we’d soon have zero cases in the U.S. We now have 7.6 million cases and 214,000 deaths in the U.S., and Trump and 17 other contacts have been diagnosed after a super spreader event at the White House.

WHAT THIS MEANS … AND HOW WE GOT HERE.

President Trump has now joined the more than 7 million Americans who have been infected with the coronavirus during this pandemic.

How did we get to this point? And why?

No one wishes ill on the president or his family, but the truth is Trump and his inner circle have now become a symbol of their own reckless, irresponsible behavior that has enabled the spread of a deadly virus and let the pandemic spin out of control. They have spent the past seven months downplaying the severity of the virus, ignoring science and overruling health experts, and brazenly violating public health guidelines intended to keep us safe.

And now, even as Trump himself is hospitalized with coronavirus, they are doubling down on their negligent behavior — putting people in harm’s way for photo ops and campaign events, failing to mandate mask-wearing even at the White House, and lying about Trump’s condition.

It’s an alarming reality that shows just how dangerous this situation is for our country.

THE LATEST…

While all the specifics of how and when the president got COVID-19 remains unclear, it’s readily apparent that his irresponsible behavior led us to this moment.

  • SUPERSPREADERS IN THE ROSE GARDEN >> Eight people, including Trump, the First Lady, two senators, and several top aides, have tested positive after attending the Amy Coney Barrett event that openly violated local DC health guidelines. That day, Trump packed 150 people together in the Rose Garden without masks or distancing — and many others gathered indoors for receptions — likely allowing the virus to spread and infect our nation’s top leaders.
  • BUT IT DIDN’T STOP THERE >> It’s not just poor leadership, bad policies, and no national strategy — Trump and the Republicans are now spreading the virus themselves. We’ve already seen evidence of community spread in the days following the Rose Garden event: 17 people in contact with Trump and others there have since tested positive.
  • In fact, Trump himself is even putting people at risk while he is hospitalized. In a video posted Sunday evening, he suggested he has been visiting with hospital personnel and even military members while he has coronavirus … and minutes after that video posted, Trump forced Secret Service agents to cram into an SUV with him for a photo op, dramatically increasing the likelihood those agents could get sick.
  • NOW THEY’RE COVERING IT UP >> Trump knew his top aide, Hope Hicks, was sick — and later that he himself was sick — while carrying on as if everything was normal and telling his aides to keep it all a secret. They did not alert people they were in contact with — including the Biden campaign, advisors in debate prep with Trump, and local officials.
  • Washington Post: Little evidence that White House has offered contact tracing, guidance to hundreds potentially exposed
  • WORSE >> Trump knowingly exposed hundreds of people to the virus at a fundraiser on Thursday, which he attended while experiencing COVID-19 symptoms after being exposed to Hope Hicks.

With the president hospitalized, Americans deserve comprehensive, transparent information about his condition — but unfortunately, Trump, his staff, and even the White House doctor are giving conflicting reports, creating a severe credibility crisis.

  • Politico: “‘White House triggers questions and confusion about Trump’s coronavirus case’: While Trump’s physician painted a rosy portrait on camera, the White House indicated “very concerning” signs over the prior day and said “the next 48 hours will be critical.”
  • Axios: White House enters cleanup mode over Trump’s COVID-19 timeline
  • Washington Post: “The White House on Saturday created a startling amount of confusion on the status of President Trump’s health and precisely when he contracted covid-19 — issuing conflicting statements and injecting uncertainty into the nation’s understanding of the president’s well-being and whom he and his associates may have exposed to the novel coronavirus.”

The chronic misinformation coming from the White House has been a hallmark of Trump’s handling of this pandemic — their credibility has been eroded completely, and now Americans are left wondering who they can trust to tell the truth about the commander-in-chief’s health.

Perhaps what is most alarming about this situation is that it appears President Trump and Republicans aren’t changing their behavior. In addition to his dangerous photo op yesterday, Trump’s campaign is still holding in-person events, refusing to wear masks, and even mocking those who do.

  • USA Today: “‘Operation MAGA’: Trump campaign to resume in-person events with Pence Ariz. trip as president battles COVID-19”
  • CNN: “Trump campaign adviser claims Biden’s mask is a ‘prop’ as President hospitalized with COVID-19”

AND WHAT ABOUT THE SUPREME COURT?

Even with Trump hospitalized with the virus… Even with three Republican senators infected (including two Judiciary Committee members)… Even with thousands of Americans still dying from the virus… Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham are rushing ahead with Trump’s Supreme Court power grab, even if it could put people in serious health danger.

  • ENTIRELY POSSIBLE >> Amy Coney Barrett’s Judiciary Committee hearings could become superspreader events themselves, with multiple committee members sick with the virus.

DON’T FORGET: The head of the Republican Party is stricken by the virus, yet Republicans are refusing to take up a coronavirus relief package, despite House Democrats having passed one months ago. Instead of rushing to address the needs of the millions of Americans who’ve gotten the virus, and the millions more affected by that, they are doubling down on a partisan Supreme Court power grab that now also threatens a covid outbreak on Capitol Hill. What backwards priorities.

Navigating Coronavirus is a joint project of Governing for Impact, Groundwork Collaborative, The Hub Project, and Navigator Research.

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