President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis put not only himself at risk, but also staff and event guests that he may have come in contact with in the days prior to his diagnosis. In response, U.S. Senator Cory Booker sent letters to administration officials seeking answers.
Letters were sent to Mark Meadows, White House Chief of Staff, and James Murray, Director of U.S. Secret Service. In these letters, two specific events were referenced, including President Trump’s fundraiser at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ, on October 1.
“In hosting this event, the President and his staff have risked the lives of an unknown number of my constituents in New Jersey, so many of whom have already made great sacrifices to grapple with the most complex public health and economic challenge in our lifetimes,” said Booker.
Mandates Ignored at NJ Fundraiser
Criticism was directed at the president for traveling to Bedminster after one of his senior aides, Hope Hicks, was diagnosed with coronavirus. President Trump’s own COVID-19 diagnosis was announced a day later, on October 2.
In his letter to Murray, Booker stated that the state’s public health safety regulations were not followed. This included regulations on business operations, crowd capacity limits, and mask-wearing mandates.
“The progress New Jersey has made in bringing infection rates down to the lowest in the country is a testament to the leadership of Governor Phil Murphy and the collective restraint and solidarity of New Jersey’s nearly nine million residents,” said Booker.
The Senator requested that the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) be provided with contact information for all individuals who attended or otherwise had access to the event in Bedminster.
Booker said that while a list of registered attendees was provided to the NJDOH, it did not contain complete contact information, or include an accounting of all individuals who accessed the event.
White House Protocols Questioned
Booker’s letter to Meadows expressed concerns for White House employees who may not have the same access to health care as the President and his senior aides. Exposure to COVID-19 may not only impact staff, but also their families and others they come in contact with.
“These workers, like many Americans, may have pre-existing conditions that place them at heightened risk of contracting COVID-19, or they may be caring for loved ones who are at greater risk of suffering serious illness or death should they contract the disease,” said Booker. “While the President and senior staff have openly flaunted CDC guidelines designed to halt the spread of the virus and the disease, support staff should not be forced to risk exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19 in the course of carrying out their essential duties.”
In his letter, Booker asked about White House protocols for informing staff when another staffer, official, or visitor tests positive for COVID-19. He also asked about contact tracing and mask-wearing requirements.
Rose Garden Event
Booker specifically referenced the ceremony held in the Rose Garden on September 26 to announce the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. A number of individuals in attendance at the event subsequently were diagnoses with COVID-19.
“Has the White House offered to provide COVID-19 tests to all those who worked during the Rose Garden ceremony on September 26, 2020, including Secret Service and catering staff?,” Booker asked.
He also asked if the White House would agree to follow guidance from the District of Columbia regarding COVID-19, as there is growing concern about an increase in cases throughout the District due to this outbreak.