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White House Doctor Says Trump Is No Longer Contagious, But Who Knows Whether He Still Has Covid-19

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a rally in support of law and order on the South Lawn of the White House on October 10, 2020 in Washington, D.C.
U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a rally in support of law and order on the South Lawn of the White House on October 10, 2020 in Washington, D.C.
Photo: Samuel Corum (Getty Images)

The White House is more madhouse lately—or at least, more than usual—so it’s important to take what it says with a grain of salt. However, there has been some interesting news coming from its corridors on Saturday: President Donald Trump is apparently no longer contagious for covid-19, the disease he contracted after making questionable decisions during a global pandemic.

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White House physician Dr. Sean Conley said in a memo released Saturday night that the president was “no longer considered a transmission risk to others” and that he had met criteria set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for discontinuing isolation (not that he paid attention isolation orders, anyway.)

“This evening I am happy to report that in addition to the president meeting C.D.C. criteria for the safe discontinuation of isolation, this morning’s Covid P.C.R. sample demonstrates, by currently recognized standards, he is no longer considered a transmission risk to others,” Dr. Conley wrote in the memo, per the New York Times. “Now at day 10 from symptoms onset, fever-free for well over 24 hours and all symptoms improved, the assortment of advanced diagnostic tests obtained reveal there is no longer evidence of actively replicating virus. In addition, sequential testing throughout his illness has demonstrated decreasing viral loads that correlate with increasing cycle threshold times, as well as decreasing and now undetectable subgenomic mRNA.”

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Nonetheless, Conley’s assertion about the CDC criteria raises questions, mainly because Trump informed the public that he had tested positive for covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, on Oct. 2.

The CDC states that for most people with covid-19, isolation and precautions can be discontinued 10 days after they develop symptoms and have not presented a fever for at least 24 hours.

Conley issued the memo on Saturday, or eight days after the president announced he had tested positive for covid-19. If Conley is counting the president’s first day with covid-19 as Oct. 1, which is the date on a White House memo saying he had received confirmation of the president’s diagnosis, that’s still only nine days.

In addition, the CDC states that people with severe covid-19 may need to isolate for up to 20 days. Although the White House has never been fully transparent about how sick Trump is—even having him sign blank pieces of paper from his hospital room to show that he was “working—we do know that the president has been treated with Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody therapy cocktail, the antiviral drug remdesivir and the steroid dexamethasone.

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At the end of the day, the White House could resolve all of the questions we, and the public, have listed above if they just revealed when the president last tested negative for covid-19. Because someone who is supposedly being tested all the time would surely be tested even more now that they’re actually sick, wouldn’t they?

But the White House doesn’t want to say when the president last tested negative, only that he’s no longer contagious. Trump, meanwhile, is crowing that he is now “immune” and that the virus “is disappearing.” Twitter flagged a Trump tweet, in which he claimed he is immune and can’t give and or get the virus, for misinformation on Sunday. It also prevented people from sharing the tweet via a link, which is why I can’t link to it.

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A claim so appalling that Twitter had to “disable most of the ways to engage with it.”
A claim so appalling that Twitter had to “disable most of the ways to engage with it.”
Image: Gizmodo Screenshot

So yeah, who knows whether the president is still sick or not. On Saturday, he spoke to hundreds of supporters, without a mask, on the South Lawn of the White House. In addition, earlier this week, an in-person presidential debate scheduled for Thursday had to be canceled because of Trump’s positive covid-19 diagnosis and subsequent refusal to participate remotely.

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The Trump campaign had claimed there was “no medical reason” the debate couldn’t be held in-person since the president would be “healthy and ready to debate.” The campaign could demonstrate that there is “no medical reason” for this by revealing when and if the president has tested negative, of course.

Trump plans to resume campaign travel on Monday.

As we have unfortunately said so many times this week, what could possibly go wrong?

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DISCUSSION

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The Trump campaign had claimed there was “no medical reason” the debate couldn’t be held in-person since the president would be “healthy and ready to debate.”

Just as a reminder, some of the things that happened around the last debate:

-Trump showed up too late to be tested before the debate, and so it was just on the “honor system” that he had been appropriately tested beforehand.

-Basically his entire entourage flouted the mask requirements once they got in the debate hall, and spent pretty much the entire 90 minute debate unmasked.

-Likely as a result of an event at the White House the Saturday prior to the debate, and certainly as a result of 6+ months of treating this pandemic cavalierly, a couple dozen people (at least) in and around the administration contracted covid.

-The administration has consistently refused to disclose when Trump’s last negative test was, which means that either (a) had not tested Trump recently before the debate or, even worse (b) they had tested him, and he tested positive.

-The same person who is now saying Trump is not contagious actively misled the public early on when Trump first was diagnosed, downplaying the severity of his condition and failing to disclose that he had been on oxygen, and basically admitted he misled the public to appease Trump.

-Since his diagnosis, Trump has been even more cavalier about covid than he was before, if that is even possible—he went on that dumb joyride, he insisted on leaving the hospital after just a few days, insisted on going back to the Oval Office, etc.

So, while I am actually willing to accept that Trump is probably not contagious, the debate commission has absolutely no reason to take Conley’s assertion about anything at face value. And beyond that, it’s about more than Trump. We can expect Trump’s entourage would again flout any mask requirements, and we have no reason to think there won’t be more of an outbreak among Trump’s associates. It would have been wildly irresponsible for this debate to be held, regardless of whether Trump himself is still contagious.