As he seeks to insert the health of his rival Joe Biden in the presidential campaign, Trump has expressed growing concern over how he would appear if he contracted a coronavirus and insisted on measures to protect himself, even if he refuses to wear a mask in public and is agitated for large campaign rallies where the virus could spread.
When he goes to places where the virus spreads, each place the President enters is inspected for potential areas of contagion by advanced security and medical teams, according to people familiar with the provisions. The President’s bathrooms are cleaned and disinfected before his arrival. Staff keep accurate records of who will contact the President to ensure that they receive tests.
As the White House phased out steps such as temperature controls and mandatory face masks in the west wing – changes meant to signal that the country is changing – those around the president are still undergoing regular testing. And even as Trump tries to put the pandemic behind him by encouraging reopening and minimizing the new wave, there are signs of the pandemic still raging even within his orbit.
As infections escalate and several states halt reopening, the president’s political advisers and allies are concerned that he is emerging from a pandemic that continues to take over the nation – and, this week, members of his own team. Trump’s absence from Friday’s coronavirus task force briefing has only increased the impression that he is leaving the pandemic response to others.
None of the country’s top health experts – deposed on the circular walk past the Department of Health and Human Services – seemed overly concerned that Trump was not there. The coronavirus task force meeting had been moved from the White House Situation Room to the health agency headquarters without much explanation. Vice President Mike Pence arrived with his safety in tow, and several aides were chased from the west wing into townships.
As the meeting began, the President was back in the White House to tweet about attempts to demolish statues and abruptly cancel a planned trip to New Jersey so that he could, he said, guarantee the maintenance of order public during the weekend.
His absence from the city-wide meeting seemed largely trivial to his staff; Trump has not attended a formal meeting of the task force since April, two sources close to his presence said.
“The president continues to lead the whole-of-government response to Covid-19 and receives regular updates on the work of the vice president’s task force,” White House spokeswoman Judd Deere told CNN.
An official suggested that Trump was not attending the briefing so that he would be spared criticism if it went wrong.
Although Trump regularly phones Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar for updates on the epidemic, he rarely talks to other members of the task force. In his testimony on Capitol Hill this week, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declined to say when he last spoke to Trump. And the US Food and Drug Administration commissioner and other senior officials have admitted that it had been weeks since they last spoke to him.
Instead of focusing on the pandemic, Trump has focused on more familiar territory: waging a cultural battle to try to demolish controversial statues and monuments. While Pence told reporters on Friday that it was Trump who ordered him to hold the Coronavirus task force’s first briefing in eight weeks, the president made no attempt to promote the briefing, which he always did when he was the star.
Those responsible for re-electing Trump have expressed concern over polls showing that voters have so far rejected how he handled the epidemic. Yet Trump himself has shown little willingness to re-adopt the war stance he once adopted daily in the White House briefing room, leaving the public message to others.
“At some point in the future, historians will marvel at the fact that the president lost ground in a pandemic and then in mass riots,” said Tucker Carlson host in his monologue opening Thursday evening. “The two crises should have highlighted its strengths. They were natural to him. ”
“A very large number of people voted for Donald Trump precisely to avoid a moment in which we are now,” said Carlson.
Even as Trump tries to move forward, the protective bubble around him has thickened. Aides says the measures are necessary to allow the president – by all definitions, an essential worker – to continue to rule the country in the midst of the pandemic.
But people familiar with the subject say that the precautions also stem from Trump’s own insistence on not contracting the disease and his heightened awareness of how a sick president would affect both his vision and his outlook on the country. ability to command a response to the pandemic.
After Trump told his aides at the start of the epidemic that he should avoid getting sick at all costs, efforts to keep him from getting the virus became increasingly intensive and widespread. The first steps such as keeping more hand sanitizer nearby have ultimately evolved into an intensive security device, including the testing regime requiring dozens of staff.
So far, efforts seem to have been effective, at least to prevent the President from contracting the virus. But the events of the past week have also underlined Trump’s primacy over security measures, the security of the staff members who make up his massive footprint coming in second.
It was clear before Trump even landed in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for a rally last Saturday night. In the hours leading up to his arrival, a handful of campaign workers tested positive for the virus. In the days following the rally, several others contracted it. Many campaign staff, who had hoped to plan other rallies in the near future, instead decided to quarantine at home. And dozens of members of the US secret service have been asked to quarantine after working on the Tulsa event.
This week, the CDC updated its list of people at increased risk of falling seriously ill with Covid-19, removing a specific age threshold and warning Americans that the risk increases steadily with age. The CDC has also added to its list of underlying conditions that increase the risk of serious illness, including obesity and serious heart disease.
Trump, who turned 74 on June 14, is considered obese, according to the results of his last physical exam, which showed that he weighed 244 pounds and was 6 feet 3 inches tall. The results of his first physical exam while in the office indicated that he also suffered from a common form of heart disease.
Trump’s most recent physical results have shown that his cholesterol level was lower than when he first took office. But other aspects of his health remain unknown. The president’s doctor’s summary of results this year did not include the same level of detail that Trump had provided in 2018, when he insisted that he be tested for questioning. on its sharpness.
Trump’s abrupt trip last October to the Walter Reed National Medical Center remains the source of questions and speculation, even among some of his collaborators. The White House insisted that the trip was supposed to give his annual physique a head start, but it was not announced in advance and the physique’s results were not published for six months .
The president has repeatedly told authorities that he cannot get sick and became angry when he learned last month that one of the military valets who handled his food and drink had the disease. Trump asked how it was possible that someone with such intimate access could have contracted the virus, and in the days following the revelation appeared cautious with people he did not know well, said people familiar with his reaction.
Trump appeared genuinely alarmed when people close to him contracted the disease, seeing in their experiences a fate that he was determined to avoid for himself. He has repeatedly raised his friend Stanley Chera, a New York real estate developer with whom Trump has been friends for decades. Trump described his surprise at Chera’s descent from the contraction of the virus on entering a coma and ultimately succumbing to the disease.
Trump was again surprised to learn that one of his closest foreign allies, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, fell seriously ill with the virus, at one point he was admitted to a intensive care in London. Trump asked for frequent updates on Johnson’s condition and then asked to speak to him as soon as he was on the mend.
Trump, who has long defined himself as a germaphobe, openly berated collaborators who coughed or sneezed in his presence even before the virus. But in the middle of the pandemic, all signs of respiratory illness were greeted by the president. When Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, said in a briefing that she had a fever and quarantined herself, Trump joked.
When Polish President Andrzej Duda, Trump’s first foreign visitor in months, visited the White House this week, he and his entire delegation were tested for coronavirus, as were U.S. officials who participated in the meeting.
For months, anyone approaching the president has been tested for coronavirus, although the Abbott lab product used by the White House has raised concerns about the high false negative rates.
Trump, who in the 80s and 90s openly discussed his success in avoiding a sexually transmitted disease – “This is Vietnam,” he told Howard Stern, “It is very dangerous. So I’m very, very careful ”- also took the controversial step of taking a cycle of hydroxychloroquine to prevent the coronavirus.
Although the drug has not been proven to prevent coronavirus infection, Trump had publicly touted its benefits and announced in the middle of his tour that he was taking it. His doctor later said that Trump’s medical team used an EKG to closely monitor the president’s heart while he was taking the drug, as some studies have suggested that it can cause serious heart problems.
This story has been updated with new reports on Trump and Friday’s briefing.