Headlines: October 2, 2020
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 8:32 — 7.8MB)
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania have tested positive for the coronavirus. The explosive news came hours after his close adviser Hope Hicks tested positive for the disease in a report that was leaked to Bloomberg News. Trump announced the news of his own diagnosis in a late night tweet on Thursday saying, “Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” According to the New York Times, “Officials at the White House have known about Ms. Hicks’s likely diagnosis since Wednesday evening, when she traveled with the president aboard Air Force One to Minnesota for a campaign rally in Duluth.” She apparently began exhibiting symptoms during the rally and traveled back with the President and his staff on Air Force One. Trump continued on to his golf course in New Jersey as though there was nothing wrong despite being in close contact with a known infected person. There he met with about 100 people, likely exposing all of them. According to reports Trump appeared “lethargic” during the event and later White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows reported that the President was experiencing “mild symptoms.” Mr. Meadows responded to a reporter’s question of whether the President was taking hydroxychloroquine, the unproven drug that he has long touted. He was not wearing a mask.
Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden, who shared a debate stage with Trump on Tuesday (where the President shouted nearly continuously for about 90 minutes), has reported testing negative for the virus. Biden has been careful about wearing masks and observing social distancing, which Trump repeatedly mocked him for even during the debate. In fact, Trump’s entire family and entourage refused to wear masks while seated in the audience during the debate, openly flouting the rules of the event location. The Guardian reported, “A Cleveland clinic doctor in a white lab coat had even tried to approach Trump family guests, offering a mask. She was unsuccessful. Someone shook their head at her as she came close.” Vice President Mike Pence has also tested negative and some have raised the possibility of the 25th Amendment being invoked in case Trump’s condition worsens.
White House Physician Sean Conley released an official statement confirming Mr. and Mrs. Trump’s diagnoses. The next week will be crucial in determining how the virus’s symptoms manifest in the President. One medical expert explained, “just knowing that he’s a male, over 70, and appears to be overweight, right away, you can say he’s in the high-risk group.” The positive test result coming so close to the election and with Trump already showing mild symptoms likely means he will be unable to keep up with the hectic campaign schedule he had planned. Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel also tested positive for the disease on Wednesday and had been in close contact with the President over the past week.
International reaction to Trump’s diagnosis was mixed. Russian President Vladimir Putin sent Trump a wish of “sincere support” while Chinese state media mocked him saying that he, “‘Paid the price for his gamble to play down’ the pandemic.” Trump has repeatedly called Covid-19 the “Chinese virus,” and most recently the “China plague.” The stock market tanked a day after Trump’s test result. The President’s diagnosis is part of a worrying trend around the nation with new cases of infection topping 40,000 a day now. A new report stated that in August 11 people tested positive at a Secret Service center in Maryland where those protecting the President are trained. And, the world’s largest retailer Amazon just announced that more than 19,000 of its workers have tested positive. The number includes those working at Whole Foods which is owned by Amazon.
Meanwhile Alex Azar, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and a staunch Trump loyalist, testified at a House hearing on the government’s Coronavirus response on Friday. House Representative Jamie Raskin and other Democrats took him to task over reports of HHS political interference with the CDC’s approach to tackling the coronavirus and the HHS plan on the virus in general. Raskin ironically was not wearing a mask while questioning HHS Secretary Alex Azar. On the same day as the hearing Politico reported that HHS had interfered in the FDA’s oversight of Covid tests.
In other news, the US economy added 661,000 new jobs in September, a slowdown of the economic recovery from the pandemic. It was the third month in a row of slowing job growth. And yet no Republican lawmakers voted for the $2.2 Trillion coronavirus relief bill that the House passed on Thursday offering $600 a week in jobless benefits and a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks. It is unlikely that the Republican controlled Senate will take up the bill as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell remains determined to instead focus on confirming Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.
The Trump administration has cut off all refugee entries into the US. At the same time a federal judge has blocked a temporary ban on foreign worker visas that Trump enacted under cover of the pandemic. A family sponsorship visa ban remains in effect until December 31st. And First Lady Melania Trump was heard on a newly released tape complaining profanely about dealing with Christmas decorations at the White House in 2018 while dismissing the horrors of Trump’s family separation policies aimed at immigrant children. The claim that Obama separated families is misleading. According to FactCheck.org, “Experts say there were some separations under previous administrations, but no blanket policy to prosecute parents and, therefore, separate them from their children.”
Governor Greg Abbott of Texas has come under fire for sweeping new changes to voting rules that limit the number of drop-off boxes for mail-in voting to one per county. In a state as vast as Texas, many denounced the governor for doing Trump’s bidding in undercutting mail-in voting. State Democratic Party officials called it a “blatant voter suppression tactic.” And two conservative operatives face felony charges in Michigan in connection with robocalls that sought to mislead voters. According to the Washington Post, “Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman were charged with four felonies of intimidating voters, conspiring to violate election law and using a computer to commit a crime.” Meanwhile Trump blamed Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of fraud lying that she was engaged in illegal “ballot harvesting” when she was not.