Headlines: October 5, 2020
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White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany became the latest Trump administration staffer to test positive for the coronavirus in a lengthy and ostensibly growing list of infected government individuals that include President Donald Trump. After canceling an appearance on Fox News Monday, McEnany, who has resolutely refused to wear a protective mask, announced her positive test result and said that she would begin quarantining herself. She says she has no symptoms so far. In her remarks to reporters McEnany has been maskless and refused to reveal details about how many White House staffers had been infected or exactly when Trump had been first tested. Aside from the President, First Lady, and Press Secretary those with known Covid-19 infections include 3 Republican Senators – Mike Lee, Thom Tillis, and Ron Johnson, Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien, his personal assistant Nicholas Luna, and his debate coach Chris Christie. Attorney General William Barr had initially refused to quarantine even after knowing he was exposed to infected individuals. He has since reversed his decision. After several days of silence during which there was reportedly severe anxiety among White House staffers, employees were sent a letter urging them to remain home if they experienced symptoms.
On Sunday President Trump, who spent the weekend at Walter Reed military hospital since Friday, took what many are calling “a joyride” in his armored car in order to wave to his supporters who had gathered outside. Dr. James P. Phillips, an attending physician at Walter Reed took to Twitter to strongly voice his criticism of the publicity stunt, saying, “Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days. They might get sick. They may die. For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity.” CNN reported that two anonymous sources saying that Trump demanded the excursion because being in the hospital, ““makes him look weak.” The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump had actually tested positive for Covid-19 before calling in to a Fox News show on Thursday night where he did not reveal his results. He simply announced he was taking a test. Only when he tested positive a second time did he make the results public on Twitter. A day before his positive test, Trump attended a fundraiser in Bedminster, New Jersey, whose hundreds of attendees are now aghast that they may have been exposed. The state of New Jersey has now contacted those who were exposed to the President. Experts say the White House’s reliance on rapid testing as a means of protection is what may have fueled the spread of the disease. Tests are meant to be used in conjunction with other protective measures.
Confusion and misinformation abounded over Trump’s health status and his medication over the weekend. Trump’s physician Dr. Sean Conley even admitted that in remarks to press over the weekend, he intentionally spun the news in a positive light. So far what is known is that Trump is being treated with an experimental drug called Regeneron which is a monoclonal antibody cocktail. His doctors received special permission to use the drug. He is also being treated with a steroid called Dexamethozone for, “two episodes of transient drops in his oxygen saturation.” In other words, Trump’s oxygen levels dropped lower than normal and needed immediate intervention. The steroid is typically only prescribed for serious cases of Covid-19. Dr. Stella Immanuel, the physician that Trump had promoted on his Twitter feed, who is an avid fan of the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine, has slammed Trump’s treatment. She denounced his physicians as “bozo doctors” and demanded that he be given hydroxychloroquine immediately. Trump claimed he had been taking the drug preventatively even though studies show it may not be effective or even safe.
Meanwhile Trump’s campaign is confident he will be released from Walter Reed on Monday even though medical experts say they are mystified by the prospect of such an early release. The second week after a positive Covid test is often the riskiest especially for people in Trump’s age group. Trump has been tweeting enthusiastically and often to give the impression that he is well. On Monday he let fly a series of tweets in all-caps urging his supporters to vote. But his family is apparently deeply concerned and, according to Vanity Fair, “the Trump children told people they want Trump to stop. ‘They’re all worried. They’ve tried to get him to stop tweeting,’ a source close to the family,” told the reporter. He also posted photos of himself working but journalists pointed out the images were staged as Trump was signing a blank sheet of paper. On Sunday Trump, looking pale, recorded a message from Walter Reed, one of several that he posted, where he explained that he had now become an expert on the disease. In the days and hours after Trump’s diagnosis there were reports that misinformation spiked on social media including bizarre rumors that Democrats intentionally infected Republicans as an explanation for why so few Democrats have tested positive. Outside Walter Reed where hundreds of Trump’s supporters have now gathered, there is no lesson from the President’s illness being learned as people congregate in close quarters claiming that “Trump was sent from God.”
Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden, who has been taking very serious precautions against the disease, tested negative for the second time. He now heads to Florida to continue his campaigning. After Trump’s Covid diagnosis Biden’s campaign took down all its negative advertising but Trump’s campaign remained aggressively in attack-mode. Two new polls conducted after last week’s Presidential debate between Trump and Biden show that undecided voters were repulsed by Trump’s aggressive behavior and relentless interruptions. Biden’s lead has now widened. It is unclear if the two candidates will debate again considering Trump’s illness. On Tuesday, the two running mates, Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris will debate one another.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s new term begins on Monday, as Justices gather for the first time since Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. On the docket are the cases around the Affordable Care Act, immigration, religion, and LGBTQ rights. It is very possible that the court may be called upon to resolve any election disputes that arise, and even without a 9th justice seated to replace Ginsburg, conservatives may have a 5 to 3 majority unless chief Justice John Roberts chooses to side with liberal justices to result in a dead-locked court. Considering that 3 Republican Senators have now been diagnosed with Covid-19, it is unclear if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s aggressive timeline to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court may take place before the election. However, Democratic Senators do apparently have one tool at their disposal to try to delay the proceedings. Mr. McConnell needs what is called “unanimous consent” to temporarily adjourn the Senate in order to keep to the confirmation timeline. Democratic Senators could simply refuse to give such consent.
And finally, LGBTQ couples across America have staged an online protest against the white supremacist men’s hate group Proud Boys, that Trump directed to “stand back and stand by” last Tuesday during the debate. After actor George Takei, who is gay, issued a call to LGBTQ couples to tag themselves on social media with the hashtag #ProudBoys, the trend went viral, submerging mentions of the hate group to photos of same-sex couples posing with one another kissing and hugging.