President Donald Trump announced on Twitter shortly before 1 a.m. Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for COVID-19, and added: “We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” That came just hours after it was reported that White House senior aide Hope Hicks had tested positive for COVID-19 and was showing symptoms. According to The Associated Press, “Hicks traveled with the president multiple times (last) week, including aboard Marine One, the presidential helicopter, and on Air Force One to a rally in Minnesota on Wednesday, and aboard Air Force One to Tuesday night’s first presidential debate in Cleveland.” The president is 74 years old and overweight, which medical experts say puts him at elevated risk for serious COVID-19 illness. He was taken by helicopter to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Friday evening.
We wish the president and first lady well as they face a battle with COVID-19 that too many Americans have faced this year.
When anyone contracts this virus, the concern must first and foremost be for that person’s health, and that certainly is the case here. The Trumps have a teenage son, who needs them most of all.
Still, when an American president gets a deadly virus, and the home in which he’s quarantining is the White House, the implications are countless and head-spinning and they include national security.
The Constitution and the 25th Amendment dictate what happens when a president is incapacitated, but how other circumstances of presidential illness might play out — especially now, at such a politically charged time — seems unclear.
How many others who had close contact with the president — close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes — will need to be quarantined before this is all over? CBS News reported that the president attended a fundraiser in New Jersey on Thursday, after Hope Hicks received a positive test result. U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, announced Friday that he had tested positive, too, a few days after visiting the White House.
At last week’s presidential debate, former Vice President Joe Biden shared a stage for 90 minutes with President Trump. Biden tweeted early Friday afternoon that he and his wife Jill had tested negative for COVID-19.
The presidential election is just 30 days away. Will there be other presidential debates? What will the presidential campaign look like moving forward?
These are just a few of the questions that were still unanswered as the Perspective section went to press Friday afternoon. One of the few things we know for sure is that the phrase “uncharted territory” will likely be worn out in the days to come.
This we also know: As of Friday afternoon, more than 208,000 Americans had died of COVID-19, and more than 7.2 million had been infected by the novel coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. There’s still no vaccine. There is still no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19.
What we have are masks, hand hygiene and social distancing to help protect us from the virus. And we implore those who have balked at wearing masks, who have spurned social distancing recommendations, to reconsider in light of Friday’s developments.
This needs to be a cautionary tale for us all.
When someone with access to the best health care and daily testing gets COVID-19, it is proof that anyone can get it.
For this and many other reasons, we need testing to be more widely available and affordable in Lancaster County so we can get a true sense of the level of COVID-19 infection — including asymptomatic infection — here.
The White House said Friday that the president was experiencing “mild symptoms.” We pray that remains the case. But even when a person experiences only mild symptoms, we now know there can be long-term health effects.
COVID-19 is a serious health issue. Those who have sought to downplay its seriousness are wrong. Those who think they know more than infectious disease experts are playing with fire — and with your health.
Priorities and masks
This is why we’ve been confounded by the efforts of some elected officials to press for the resumption of sporting events and spectator attendance at those events. We need to recalibrate the relative importance of personal health, education, a vibrant economy and sports, and decide where our resources should go. Frankly, as we wrote in our Sept. 20 editorial, we need to assess our priorities. The health and safety of our population must be paramount. The reality is that a truly healthy economy only will be possible when we get COVID-19 under better control.
The potential of COVID-19 to disrupt organizations and lives was illustrated not just in the White House but in the Pennsylvania General Assembly last week.
The state House of Representatives was forced to cancel its voting session Thursday, and adjourn until Oct. 19, because Republican Rep. Paul Schemel of Franklin County tested positive Thursday morning, “after attending a committee meeting in the Capitol on Tuesday,” Spotlight PA reported.
“The news disrupts a last-minute scramble to extend and fix the state’s $150 million rent relief program, which was meant to help Pennsylvanians struggling to pay rent during the pandemic but has been riddled with problems since it launched in July,” noted Spotlight PA, a nonpartisan newsroom that includes LNP Media Group among its partners.
As The Associated Press reported, “state House employees are all required to wear masks in the Capitol,” but “that does not apply to the representatives themselves.”
Noted the AP: “A significant number of House Republicans have continued to be maskless inside the Capitol, and some have defiantly ridiculed mask wearing.”
They’ve been defying science.
We ask every politician, government official, religious leader, educator, community leader and parent to be vocal and vigilant in encouraging everyone they know to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols on mask-wearing, social distancing and hand-washing.
And please, no more nonsense about mask requirements and public gathering restrictions being violations of personal liberty. We’re in the midst of a massive health crisis. If we are patriots who love this country, we should embrace masks as the simplest, least expensive, most effective means of getting COVID-19 under control.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine said Sept. 23 that if 95% of Americans consistently wore masks, we could save 96,000 lives between now and the end of the year.
A bipartisan resolution introduced by U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., during the summer cited a study in The BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal, which found that mask-wearing by infected individuals and the contacts of those individuals was 79% effective in reducing COVID-19 transmission.
And it cited this fact from a Yale University study: Each additional cloth mask worn by members of the public has an estimated economic benefit of between $3,000 and $6,000 “due to the ability of masks to slow COVID-19 transmission and, as a result, to decrease mortality relating to the virus that causes COVID-19.”
That Yale study emphasized that “everyone” should wear “cloth masks in public at all times, not just those with symptoms.”
Refusing to wear a mask is an insult to health care workers who put their own lives at risk when they treat COVID-19 patients.
We have asked a great deal of those health care workers in the past seven months. It’s not too much to ask of us that we take reasonable precautions to limit COVID-19’s spread.
So please, wear a mask when you’re in public — even when you’re in public spaces outside. And please get your information from scientists and medical experts, not sketchy social media posts. As Fox News anchor Chris Wallace urged viewers Friday, “Follow the scientists. Listen to people like Anthony Fauci ... Listen to the independent people who do not have a political ax to grind.”
Last month, the president said that the U.S. was “rounding the final turn” in the coronavirus crisis. It appears, sadly, that the virus had other ideas.