Nine people who attended Amy Coney Barrett’s ceremonial nomination to the Supreme Court on Saturday have now tested positive for COVID-19 – giving rise to fears that it was a ‘super-spreader event’.
Former New Jersey Gov Chris Christie and Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien were the latest attendees to confirm they have tested positive for the virus.
The September 26 gathering attracted around 100 people – many of them not wearing face masks; all sitting close.
Christie was one of many attendees who were photographed hugging, shaking hands and chatting without face masks.
Others to test positive following the event include president Donald Trump, his wife Melania, Hope Hicks, Kellyanne Conway, two senators – Mike Lee from Utah and Thom Tillis from North Carolina – plus the president of Notre Dame university, John Jenkins.
Many of the other high-profile figures who attended have not yet been given the all-clear.
On Friday, Trump was transported to Walter Reed hospital in Washington, DC, for further tests and treatment after he and first lady Melania tested positive.
Nine people have now tested positive for coronavirus, after attending Saturday’s Rose Garden event. They are 1: Donald Trump, 2: Melania Trump, 3: University of Notre Dame President John Jenkins, 4: Senator Mike Lee, 5: Senator Thom Tillis, 6: Kellyanne Conway, 7: Chris Christie, as well as Hope Hicks and Bill Stepien (not pictured)
Christie joins at least nine figures in the president’s inner circle who have tested positive after attending Amy Coney Barrett’s ceremonial nomination to the Supreme Court last weekend
First lady Melania Trump, who tested positive for COVID-19 in results made public Thursday, was seated next to one of Barrett’s children
With few wearing masks to protect against the coronavirus, Republican senators joined other guests Saturday as Trump introduced 7th U.S. Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett, 48, as his nominee to the Supreme Court
Attorney General Bill Barr was seen at Saturday’s event in the Rose Garden shaking hands and not wearing a mask as he said good bye former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and others
Republicans on Capitol Hill vowed to press forward with the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett despite her coming into contact with President Donald Trump on Saturday
Christie tweeted on Saturday: ‘I just received word that I am positive for COVID-19. I want to thank all of my friends and colleagues who have reached out to ask how I was feeling in the last day or two.
‘I will be receiving medical attention today and will keep the necessary folks apprised of my condition.’
Christie was on the fourth row for the official nomination announcement, and was photographed hugging other attendees afterwards.
The former governor of New Jersey was seen chatting animatedly to Conway, who announced Friday she had tested positive.
Senior campaign official Stepien received the positive results of his test on Friday night, and revealed he is suffering ‘mild flu-like symptoms’.
Mike Lee, the Republican senator for Utah, one of two senators in attendance to announce Friday he had tested positive for coronavirus, was seated just two rows back, on the aisle, directly behind Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen.
Pence tested negative Friday, his office said.
North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis has become the second senator to test positive following Saturday’s event
Seen at the event was a roll call of senior White House officials, top Republicans, Cabinet members and campaign figures.
Eugene Scalia, the labor secretary and son of late Supreme Court judge Antonin Scalia, was in attendance, along with his mother Maureen.
Alex Azar, the health secretary, was present, as was White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Pat Cipollone, the chief counsel.
Six of the 12 Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee were present – Michael Lee, Marsha Blackburn, Ben Sasse, Josh Hawley, Thom Tillis, and Mike Crapo.
Two have tested positive.
Senators Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, were in attendance, with Loeffler sitting close to Conway and Lee.
Billy Graham, the evangelical pastor and son of Franklin Graham, was present, as was Trump campaign advisor Corey Lewandowski.
Christie had also attended debate prep sessions on Monday with Stepien and Conway.
Christie told ABC’s Good Morning America on Friday that he was among five or six people who gathered in the White House’s map room on Monday to help Trump prepare Tuesday’s debate.
And he revealed: ‘No one was wearing masks in the room when we were prepping the president’.
With new information coming in rapidly, and only a range of the incubation period for the disease, it was impossible to immediately tell if the Saturday event is where the president and the others became infected – or perhaps unwittingly spread it to others.
None of those who later tested positive were seen wearing masks, and few of the attendees were.
Immediately after the event – where Republicans were nearly ready to declare victory on pushing through Barrett’s nomination – Trump flew to Harrisburg aboard Air Force One, another possible vector for infection.
The plane features tight quarters and shared spaces. The president came to the back of the plane to talk, according to a pool report filed by a DailyMail.com reporter who was traveling with the president.
Although the content of his remarks were off the record, he engaged in back-and-forth with the press for about ten minutes.
Donald Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien (pictured with the president aboard Air Force One on August 28) tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday
Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett as Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court during a ceremony in the Rose Garden where he stood next to the First Lady, Barrett and her children
Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway (C) tested positive, she confirmed on Friday. She is pictured with Attorney General William Barr (R) talking with guests in the Rose Garden after President Donald Trump introduced 7th U.S. Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett, 48, as his nominee to the Supreme Court at the White House
Kellyanne Conway on Friday night confirmed her positive COVID-19 test and said she was ‘feeling fine’
Former NJ Governor Chris Christie was seen at Saturday’s event flouting social distancing guidelines and not wearing mask
Very few guests at Saturdays even in the Rose Garden were seen wearing masks, and those who did were still in close quarters with other guests
At least 100 people were in attendance Saturday in the White House Rose Garden. So far, nine people including the President and First Lady have tested positive for coronavirus
Faith and Freedom Coalition founder Ralph Reed (C) shakes hands with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows at the event Saturday
Bill Barr chats with guests and shakes hands, without a mask, at Saturday’s ‘superspreader’ event. His COVID-19 status is unknown
Mike Lee was captured on video at the event chatting amiably with guests, mask in hand, although he wasn’t wearing it.
He was captured on video kissing and hugging other guests effusively.
The news, just the latest jarring news on a day of coronavirus bombshells, immediately threw the Senate GOP’s intense confirmation schedule for the Supreme Court into doubt.
Lee is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and met its members on Wednesday for a hearing with James Comey.
As well as the possibility that its members – two of whom are 87 – may be advised to quarantine, the Senate has not voted on whether the SCOTUS nominee’s hearings can be held remotely.
Lee also reportedly met the judge on Tuesday – with the Judiciary Committee planning to meet within days with the aim of setting up a floor vote before the election.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) revealed that he tested positive for the coronavirus. He met Tuesday with Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett
Lee tweeted that he took a Covid-19 test Thursday and that the ‘test came back positive.’ He did not say precisely when he got the results it or why he got tested Thursday
Mike Lee on Saturday: The Utah Republican senator was among the guests as Amy Coney Barrett was unveiled at the White House on Saturday as Trump’s Supreme Court nominee – where he enthusiastically greeted two other guests
Effusive, and maskless: This was Mike Lee on Saturday – now he is quarantining after testing positive for coronavirus
THE CRUCIAL QUESTIONS OVER TRUMP’S HEALTH
WHEN PRECISELY WAS HE DIAGNOSED WITH COVID-19?
We now have had three different versions of when Trump was diagnosed from the White House, ranging from Wednesday morning to Friday at 1am. The White House has also not said what ‘diagnosed’ means – it could mean spotting clinical symptoms or testing positive.
The White House first announced Donald Trump’s positive test result – and that of the first lady – at 1am EST on Friday morning. But Dr. Sean Conley said on Saturday morning just before midday that the president was ‘ 72 hours into the diagnosis.’ That would mean he was diagnosed with COVID on Wednesday and as early as Wednesday morning – after he returned from the presidential debate with joe Biden and before he took part in a White House South lawn event then flew to Minnesota for an indoors fundraiser and outdoors rally. Dr. Conley then offered a different version saying that on Thursday afternoon ‘we repeated testing’ and Trump was given a PCR test – the most accurate kind because he ‘gave a kind of clinical indication.’ He did not say if that was before or after he flew to New Jersey for an indoors fundraiser. Trump himself told Sean Hannity shortly after 9pm that night that he was waiting for a test. After Conley spoke a White House source said ‘on background’: ‘The doctor meant it’s day 3, not yet 72hrs. Diagnosis made Thursday night.’ Then in another turn, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany issued a written statement from Conley saying he ‘incorrectly used the term “seventy two hours” instead of “day three” and “forty eight hours” instead of “day two.” He added that the first diagnosis was on ‘Thursday evening.’
WHEN PRECISELY WERE SYMPTOMS FIRST DETECTED AND WHEN PRECISELY WAS HE TESTED?
There is no clarity over when Trump was last tested before his positive result. Dr. Conley repeated the White House claim that he is tested ‘frequently’ but did not say what that meant. They have never said if he was routinely given the less accurate Abbott Labs 15 minute test or the advanced OCR test.
When he arrived at Tuesday’s presidential debate Trump was too late to be tested by the Cleveland Clinic. Moderator Chris Wallace said there was an ‘honor system’ for the candidates; Trump’s team told the Debate Commission he was negative. That night he flew home on Air Force One from the presidential debate and aides said he was tired but decided it was because of the debate. But lethargy is symptom – and it is unknown if doctors took note of it.
Then Dr. Conley initially said Trump was diagnosed ’72 hours’ before the Saturday statement which would mean Wednesday morning.
Trump went to Minnesota on Wednesday for a fundraiser in Minneapolis and a rally in Duluth, where he spoke for 45 minutes, far less than his usual performances of more than an hour. Then he fell asleep on Air Force One in contrast to normally watching television and tweeting. But it is unknown if this was seen as a possible symptom at the time.
Hope Hicks’ positive result came on Thursday morning but nobody has said if Trump was tested as soon as it was given or if it was until late Thursday afternoon that he was given a full nasal swab.
WHEN WAS HE FIRST TREATED FOR COVID?
Dr. Sean Conley said Saturday that he was speaking ’48 hours after’ the first Regenron treatment was given to Trump. That would mean on Thursday morning. But the public were not told he was even ill until Friday at 1am, and no drug treatment was disclosed until Friday afternoon. After Dr. Conley spoke, a White House source spoke ‘on background’ and said: ‘The Doctor meant it’s day 3, not yet 72hrs, Regeneron administered later that night (2 days ago), not 48hrs ago.’ Then in a statement Dr. Conley said Regenron was first administered on Friday – but not when.
DID HE GO TO ANY EVENTS WHEN DOCTORS SUSPECTED HE WAS UNWELL OR HAD BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH CLINICAL SYMPTOMS OF COVID?
The White House doctors and series of statements offer no insight into when Trump first felt unwell; when anyone suspected he was unwell; when he was first tested; and if a doctor had seen clinical signs of COVID before he was nasally swabbed. That means that Trump could have gone to any or all of a Minnesota fundraiser and rally; a White House South Lawn event; and a New Jersey fundraiser with doctors suspecting he had COVID or even having tested him for it.
HAS THE PRESIDENT EVER BEEN ON OXYGEN?
Dr. Conley grinned as he repeatedly said Trump as ‘not on oxygen now.’ Pressed repeatedly about the president ever having had it he said: ‘Thursday, no oxygen, none at this moment, and yesterday with the team, while we were all here, he was not on oxygen.’ About an hour later the New York Times and Associated Press reported Trump was given oxygen at the White House residence. There has been no official denial or confirmation but Dr. Conley had left that possibility open. Why he would not confirm it is unknown.
WHAT TEMPERATURE DID THE PRESIDENT’S FEVER SPIKE AT?
This simple question was not answered. It is a crucial clinical indication but all Dr. Conley would say is that he has been fever-free for 24 hours. Given that the White House now disputed Dr. Conley’s use of 48 and 72 hours, even that cannot be taken as true.
DOES THE PRESIDENT HAVE HEART OR LUNG DAMAGE?
Dr. Conley was asked about lung damage and said: ‘We’re following all of that. We do daily ultrasounds. We do daily lab work. The team is tracking all of that.’ But that does not say if there is any damage to his lungs.’ He simply ignored a question about Trump’s heart.
DO WE KNOW EVERY DRUG OR TREATMENT HE HAS TAKEN?
The White House in two statements has detailed drugs Trump has been given. On Friday’s afternoon it said he was given the experimental Regeneron antibody ‘cocktail’ as well as zinc, Vitamin D and the histamine-blocker famotidine. Then late on Friday night a statement from Dr. Conley said he had been given the antiviral Remdesvir. But Dr. Conley refused to answer if Trump was on steroids. He did not say if he is on any other drugs. Trump previously took hydroxychloroquine in late May and early June despite its use at the time being at best questionable and at worst risky. In June Dr. Conley said Trump takes three daily drugs: 40mg of Rosuvastatin, a statin; 1mg of finasteride, the hair-loss drug generally marketed as Propecia; and 81mg of aspirin. But on Saturday Dr. Conley walked off when he was asked twice if Trump was on steroids.
DO WE KNOW ALL THE PRESIDENT’S UNDERLYING CONDITIONS?
We do not know if we do. The last medical report in June said he was clinically obsess but had health cholesterol, resting heart rate and blood pressure., normal kidney, liver and thyroid function, normal blood count and normal Vitamin V12 and Vitamin D levels. But the White House has never explained fully his mystery trip to Walter Reed in November 2019 when Mike Pence was told to be on ‘standby’ to assume the powers of the presidency. Since then Trump’s struggle to walk down a ramp at West Point and his strange drinking of water with two hands has been the subject of widespread speculation about cognitive issues. He has denied having ‘a series of mini-strokes’ in an angry tweet but his physician has never fully addressed the visit or his cognitive state.
WHO IS TREATING THE PRESIDENT?
His treatment is being led by Dr. Sean Conley, who introduced other Walter Reed staff – including pulmonary specialists – on Saturday. But the White House has not answered questions on the names of his full team. It has also not said if he or Dr. Conley have consulted other doctors on the coronavirus task force including Dr. Tony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, both renowned specialists. And it has not said if he has consulted Dr. Scott Atlas the controversial member of the taskforce who has spoken in favour of ‘herd immunity’ and minimized the importance of masks, and been called an ‘outlier’ who gives ‘bad information’ by Dr. Fauci. Also unaddressed is whether Dr. Conley has reached out to Admiral Ronny Jackson, Trump’s last White House doctor. He quit after his nomination to run Veterans Affairs was withdrawn and an investigation opened into whether he was drunk on the job and gave out prescription drugs to staffers, earning the nickname ‘Candyman.’ He had previously claimed the president could ‘live to 200.’ On Friday he tweeted that the president was ‘asymptomatic’ which quickly became plainly untrue. He is running for Congress as a Republican and it is unclear if he retains a medical registration.
IS THE PRESIDENT’S DOCTOR OVERWORKED?
Given that we do not know exactly who was treating the president in the White House, we do not know if Dr. Conley has had adequate sleep, or adequate backup. He has been dealing with an escalating crisis since at least Thursday morning when Hicks tested positive but possibly for longer – and we do not know how long, given his changing version of events. White House staff are working around the clock and on Friday when Trump got on Marine One appeared both shellshocked and exhausted. But Dr. Conley went with him to Walter Reed, and it is unclear if he was relieved by other doctors or has worked around the clock. Dr. Conley however is a commander in the Navy and would be expected to be aided by multiple specialists to perform his task. Doctors are trained not to become over-tired and to recognize the need to get rest. His superior officers would emphasize that to him and at Walter Reed, Trump could have been attended by specialists who could take over to let Dr. Conley rest – but we do not know if that happened.
HAS THE PRESIDENT OR ANYONE ELSE ORDERED DOCTORS NOT TO BE FULLY TRANSPARENT – AND DID DR. CONLEY WRITE HIS OWN STATEMENT?
This is simply unknown. Dr. Conley has never before spoken to reporters, and read initially from a prepared statement. He has had lengthy time with the president and as a patient, the president has veto over any aspect of revealing his medical information, such as when and how he was diagnosed, his use of oxygen and his maximum temperature. Also present at Walter Reed is Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff. He does not formally control Dr. Conley who is in the military chain of command, but is a member of the Cabinet and would be seen as having authority to act on the president’s behalf to control the release of information.
IF THE PRESIDENT IS TWEETING IS THAT A GOOD SIGN?
Multiple people can access Trump’s twitter account, but it is principally run by Dan Scavino, his director of social media. Under CDC guidelines Scavino should be self-quarantining after extensive contact with Trump and Hicks although it is unknown if he is. Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, hinted Friday that Trump was not in control of his account when he said that ‘we decided to put out that tweet’ of the 1am Friday tweet saying: Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!’ So a tweet Saturday from Trump cannot be taken as proving he is well, or disproving that he is unwell.
Lee said in a statement he took a test ‘out of an abundance of caution’ after experiencing symptoms akin to allergies.
‘Unlike the test I took just a few days ago while visiting the White House, yesterday’s test came back positive,’ Lee said in a statement. ‘On advice of the Senate attending physician, I will remain isolated for the next 10 days.’
He says he assured party leaders he will be ‘back to work in time’ to join them in ‘advancing the Supreme Court nomination’ of Barrett.
Video from Saturday’s announcement shows Lee, with a medical mask in his hand, shaking hands and speaking with supporters at the White House.
Lee tweeted out a photo of himself with Barrett, both unmasked, at his Senate office this week.
Judiciary is set to meet on the nomination to begin hearings on October 12.
Sen. Dianne Feinsein (D-Calif.), has formally asked for a delay – a move backed by Chuck Schumer, the minority leader.
Democrats howled at the effort to jam through the nomination so close to the election after the GOP stalled President Obama’s pick, Judge Merrick Garland, for nine months at the end of Obama’s term.
White House spokesman Judd Deere told Axios Friday that Barrett, ‘is following CDC guidance and best practices, including social distancing, wearing face coverings, and frequently washes hands’
At Saturday’s event, Trump walked in next to Amy Coney Barrett, followed by the First Lady and Barrett’s family
Republicans on Capitol Hill vowed to press forward with the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett despite her coming into contact with Trump on Saturday.
After Axios’ initial report, both Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday that meetings would proceed.
‘Just finished a great phone call with President Trump. He’s in good spirits and we talked business – especially how impressed Senators are with the qualifications of Judge Barrett,’ McConnell tweeted.
‘Full steam ahead with the fair, thorough, timely process that the nominee, the Court, & the country deserve,’ McConnell said.
Graham also said he had spoken with the president Friday morning and was asked by Trump about the Barrett confirmation.
‘We’re on track, we’re in a good spot, she’s going to get confirmed and we’ll start on Oct the 12th,’ Graham said he told the president.
Republican senators, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (right), have vowed to press on with Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s (left) nomination for the Supreme Court, despite Barrett being in close contact with President Donald Trump on Saturday
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted Friday morning that he had spoken on the phone with President Donald Trump who had asked about Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination. ‘Full steam ahead,’ McConnell reported to Trump
Even Lee, after testing positive, vowed to return to his work on the Judiciary Committee in order to get Barrett’s nomination over the line.
Part of the traditional nominating process for a Supreme Court justice is in-person meetings with U.S. senators.
Most are at risk for COVID-19 because of their advanced ages.
White House spokesman Judd Deere told Axios Friday that Barrett, ‘is following CDC guidance and best practices, including social distancing, wearing face coverings, and frequently washes hands.’
Barrett’s confirmation hearings will have a virtual option for any senator who feels high-risk.