Trump’s NJ fundraiser: State trying to get a handle on how many were exposed
BEDMINSTER — A report says New Jersey officials are "frustrated" they're not getting more information from the White House to help with contact tracing, after President Trump held a Thursday Bedminster fundraiser despite being told earlier that day he'd been exposed to the novel coronavirus.
The president has since tested positive, and is undergoing treatment at Walter Reed Military Medical Center.
The report by the NBC News, citing an anonymous source "who has knowledge of the effort" said the White House and Republican National Committee hadn't shared the phone numbers and addresses of attendees or staff by Saturday evening. They had, however, handed over the names and email addresses of 200 attendees, the report said.
Somerset County's public information officer, in an email message to New Jersey 101.5 early Sunday, didn't address questions about how many people are known to have attended the event, what level of contact they had with the president or other people known to have contracted the coronavirus, or how contact tracing is proceeding.
He instead pointed to an earlier statement from the county and the state Department of Health, advising those who'd been in close contact with people who've tested positive to quarantine for 14 days. The statement also urges those concerned about exposure at the president's fundraiser to get tested, but to consider waiting five to sever days after the Oct. 1 event, because it can take several days for the virus to register after an exposure.
CNN, in a report Sunday morning, said Trump attended three events at the fundraiser, citing an invitation to the event — an indoor roundtable, an indoor VIP reception, and an outdoor reception. Donors who gave $250,000 were able to participate in the roundtable. It cited a source saying that included 18 people, at socially distanced tables.
The CNN report cited other sources saying attendees were tested for coronavirus, but that most people did not wear masks. It said attendees were not informed the president had been exposed.
The report says the White House notified attendees by email Friday that the president had announced his positive coronavirus test late Thursday night. At that point, the positive test result was dominating national news.
ABC spoke to several attendees of the fundraiser who said they are now quarantining and getting coronavirus tests.
"I stayed 6 feet away from the president at all times as well, but out of an abundance of caution have quarantined myself until I can be tested," attendee Daniel Hux told ABC in a statement.
The CDC recommends contact tracing for any individual within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes. It says those without symptoms and testing negative should still quarantine for 14 days from their last exposure.
The ABC report said the Trump campaign and attendees alike describe the president as at safe distance from attendees throughout the fundraiser, and only having brief contacts with most there. The ABC report quoted attendees saying that when Trump posed for photos with some attendees, event staff, campaign staff and Secret Service members all wore masks.
"Why would I get tested?" another attendee, Katherine Hermes, told ABC. "I was nowhere near the president."
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters on Friday that Thursday afternoon — before the Trump fundraiser — the president and some members of his staff were informed adviser Hope Hicks had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Hicks had traveled with the president to Tuesday's debate against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
A Saturday briefing by Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley left reporters and the public with questions about what Trump and the White House knew before the Bedminster event. He initially described the president as "72 hours into the diagnosis now" — which would suggest the president knew of his own positive status before coming to New Jersey.
In a subsequent statement, he said he misspoke about the timetable, and said that the president was at that point in the third day of his diagnosis. His updated statement didn't clarify at exactly what point the president had indications he was ill, but he said Saturday the president was exhibiting "clinical indications that (caused) a little bit more concern" Thursday afternoon.
However, White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany had previously said the president got his positive result about an hour before it was announced — which would be after the Bedminster trip.
Conley also said that Trump began showing “clinical indications” of COVID-19 on Thursday afternoon.
Conley said Saturday that doctors treating the president are “cautiously optimistic,” but that the next 48 hours would be critical to determining his prognosis.
Conley did not give a precise answer to repeated questions by reporters about whether Trump had ever been on oxygen during the week, saying only that he had not been on oxygen Friday and Saturday. The Associated Press, however, learned from a White House source that Trump had been administered oxygen at the White House before his admission to Walter Reed Military Medical Center Friday.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told The Associated Press on Saturday, "We’re still not on a clear path yet to a full recovery."
Trump, in a video from the hospital Saturday, said he was feeling better. He described the treatments he was getting as "miracles coming down from God."
He also addressed criticism over his choice not to wear a mask in many public settings, and to hold events with little social distancing or mask-wearing, including many of his rallies this year.
“I had no choice,” Trump said in the video. "I had to be out front. ... I can’t be locked up in a room upstairs and totally safe. ... As a leader, you have to confront problems.”
Sunday, he thanked supporters in Tweets made from the hospital.
Trump is 74 years old, which puts him in a high-risk category for the novel coronavirus.