There's a lot we don't know about our current coronavirus crisis, including how many people have it, how long the pandemic will last, how to stop it, and how much this will all ultimately cost. What we do know, however, is that things are bad, and getting much worse — particularly for older Americans, who are at heightened risk from the disease.
Given that the elevated dangers for the elderly are among the few things we do know about COVID-19, you'd think that President Trump — age 73 — would be worried about his own health, particularly as it's now been established that he's been in direct contact with at least one person who's been confirmed as testing positive for coronavirus. And yet, despite his being exactly the sort of person who you'd think should be getting tested for coronavirus, the president will reportedly be doing no such thing.
Less than one week after the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his communications director Fábio Wajngarten — who has since tested positive for the virus — visited the president at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement released Thursday that neither Trump nor Vice President Mike Pence will be getting tested for the virus, as they both had "almost no interactions" with Wajngarten.
Folks, let's go to the tape. Or more accurately, Wajngarten's own Instagram account:
That's Wajngarten on the right, leaning in while Trump flashes a smile. And here he is standing just a few feet away from Trump in video taken the same night.
While the two weren't exactly touching each other's faces, it's pretty clear that hanging out side-by-side in the president's personal vacation property could hardly be considered "almost no" interaction. In fact, Bolsonaro himself has reportedly already been tested for the virus, and is awaiting the results, while Republican Sens. Rick Scott (Fla.) and Lindsay Graham (S.C.) — both of whom were also in attendance at Mar-a-Lago during the Brazilian delegation's visit — each announced Thursday that they would voluntarily self-quarantine out of "an abundance of caution."
Which makes the White House's decision not to test Trump for the virus all the more confusing, and likely dangerous. It not only flies in the face of medical advice, but sets a dangerous precedent for those who would look to the president's behavior as an example for how they should be practicing self-care during this pandemic. It's not hard to imagine some septuagenarian Fox News viewer who, after learning that they'd been in contact with a coronavirus carrier themselves, would point to the president as reason enough for why they shouldn't get tested.
Meanwhile, it's hard to pin down exactly why the White House is being so cavalier about the president's medical condition. You'd think it would behoove them to use this as a teachable moment for what to do in these confusing, scary times. Instead, Trump and his inner circle seem so hell-bent on minimizing the very real danger the coronavirus pandemic represents that they'll go so far as to risk the president's own health — or at the very least, the health of those who might follow his example — to prove the point.
Trump's refusal to take the coronavirus test comes just as as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified to Congress that the country's inability to adequately address its viral testing needs "is a failing. Let’s admit it."