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What You Need To Know: The 'Super-Spreader' event behind the White House COVID-19 cluster.

Mamamia’s What You Need To Know series breaks down the big news stories for you in easy-to-understand terms. We’re not ‘dumbing it down’, we’re just providing the context that can so often be lost in today’s fast-moving and never-ending news cycle. Today, we break down the White House COVID-19 cluster.

The West Wing of the White House is now a COVID-19 hotspot. 

With the benefit of hindsight, there's one event that is being considered the likely 'super-spreader' of the deadly disease.  

On Saturday, September 26, 150 guests gathered at the White House Rose Garden. They sat tightly packed in the crowd, as President Donald Trump formally announced his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett

Seven days later, seven people who attended this event have now tested positive to COVID-19, including the President himself and the First Lady, Melania Trump.  

Photos show that few guests were wearing masks at the time and almost all ignored social distancing recommendations by the World Health Organisation. 

Although all guests had tested negative for the coronavirus prior to attending, the event is now under scrutiny. As The New York Times reports, the virus takes several days to be detected in a test after the initial infection, leaving the likely possibility that a contagious guest was unknowingly in attendance.  

Guests at the White House on September 26 ignored social distancing recommendations. Now, six in the first few rows have tested positive to COVID-19. Image: Getty. 

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Here's how the White House cluster has unfolded. 

Tuesday, September 29.

Following the Saturday event, President Trump and members of his team flew to Cleveland for the presidential debate with Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Before the debate, they had several "closed-door preparation sessions", according to The New York Times.

Organisers required everyone in attendance to be tested in advance and found negative. There were also guidelines on social distancing, hand sanitising, temperature checks and masking.

But most in Trump's section of the audience - his adult children, senior staff and other VIPs - removed their masks, violating the rules.

Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump, Tiffany Trump and Donald Trump Jr. sit in the audience during the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden last Tuesday. Image: Getty. 

During the debate, Trump mocked Biden for wearing masks. 

"I don't wear a mask like him," Trump said. "Every time you see him, he's got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away ...and he shows up with the biggest mask I've ever seen."

Wednesday, September 30.

Hope Hicks, a senior Trump adviser, joined others on board a flight to Minnesota for a fund-raiser followed by an outdoor rally in Duluth.

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Whilst in Minnesota, Hicks reported feeling unwell.

Hicks kept apart from others on the plane coming back and did not take the crowded Marine One helicopter back to the White House.

Also on Wednesday, Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tested positive to coronavirus. She had last been with the President five days prior, on the Friday. 


Thursday, October 1. 

On Thursday morning, Hope Hicks tested positive to COVID-19. 

Despite Hicks' diagnosis, Trump went ahead with a trip for a fundraiser at his golf club in New Jersey. Others who'd also been around Hicks were not immediately told about her positive test, according to AAP

Hope Hicks is one of President Trump's closest aides. Image: Getty. 

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Hours after the fundraiser, Trump publicly confirmed Hicks had tested positive. He said he was consequently prepared to quarantine.

Also on Thursday, Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, announced he had tested positive to the coronavirus. Lee had also been in attendance at the Saturday 26 White House event. 

Friday, October 2.

At 12:54 am, on Friday morning, Trump confirmed his positive diagnosis. 

"Tonight, FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!"

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Within 24 hours, Trump had been admitted to a military hospital, Walter Reed, in what White House officials initially said was merely a precaution. 

Friday saw a number of other key White House officials confirm their positive diagnosis of the deadly disease, including Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina, and former counsellor to Trump Kellyanne Conway, who were both in attendance at the September 26 event. 

Rev. John I. Jenkins, the president of the University of Notre Dame - who was also at the Rose Garden event - announced his positive diagnosis on Friday as well. 

Saturday, October 3.

On Saturday, Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie also confirmed he had tested positive and has since checked himself into hospital. 

Chris Christie during the September 26 event at the White House. Image: Getty. 

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Also on Saturday, there were contradictory messages about the severity of the President's illness. 

The President's doctors said he is "doing very well," whilst Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said he went though a "very concerning" period.

"The president’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care," Meadows told reporters outside the hospital on Saturday (local time). "We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery."

Trump shared a video to social media, updating followers on his condition. 

"I came here, wasn’t feeling so well. I feel much better now. We’re working hard to get me all the way back," Trump said in the four minute video. 

"I’ll be back, I think I’ll be back soon. And I look forward to finishing up the campaign the way it was started." 

Trump also gave an update on Melania, saying she was "doing very well" and "handling it very nicely". 

Evidently, the White House cluster is continuing to grow, raising concerns for what this might mean for the presidential election that is less than one month away. 

Feature image: AAP.


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