Trump election party draws scrutiny as guests test positive

Donald Trump addressed supporters in North Carolina

At least three senior Trump administration or campaign officials have tested positive for Covid-19 after attending an election night watch party in the White House East Room.

The night — intended to mark a victory that never came — has become yet another symbol of the president’s cavalier attitude toward a virus that is ripping across the nation and infecting more than 100,000 people a day.

Ben Carson, the secretary for housing and urban development, tested positive, a department spokesperson confirmed on Monday, as did David Bossie, who was recently tasked with overseeing the campaign’s legal challenges contesting the election’s outcome.

The event had been under scrutiny since another attendee, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, contracted the virus, which has now killed more than 238,000 people in the US alone.

Mr Carson’s deputy chief of staff, Coalter Baker, said the secretary “is in good spirits” and “feels fortunate to have access to effective therapeutics which aid and markedly speed his recovery.” Mr Carson is a retired neurosurgeon.

The White House has repeatedly refused to say who else has tested positive, even as the virus continues to spread.

The latest White House cluster, coming just a month after Mr Trump’s own diagnosis and hospital stay, includes a leading Trump campaign official as well as a handful of undisclosed White House staff, officials said.

The White House has been increasingly secretive about outbreaks. Many White House and campaign officials, as well as those who attended the election watch party, were kept in the dark about the diagnoses, unaware until they were disclosed by the press.

That the virus would continue to spread in the White House — even though senior staff and those who come into close contact with the president and vice president are frequently tested — has come as no surprise to public health officials who have been taken aback by the White House’s lax approach.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has steered clear of the White House in recent months because “their approach to how to handle this was different from mine”

And polls suggest that attitude was a serious drag on the president’s re-election bid as voters chose to deny Mr Trump a second term in favour of his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, who is now President-elect.

“The administration was cavalier about the risks of the virus for themselves and for the country. And that’s one reason why we have so many cases,” said Dr Joshua Sharfstein, a public health professor at Johns Hopkins University.

Even Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has said he has been avoiding the White House since August “because my impression was their approach to how to handle this was different from mine and what I insisted that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing”.

Mr Trump had long claimed, without basis, that the virus was being exaggerated by Democrats to hurt his re-election chances and would miraculously “disappear” after November 3.

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