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The top general in the US military, Mark Milley, and several other members of the US joint chiefs of staff who advise Donald Trump entered quarantine on Tuesday, as the president, infected with the coronavirus himself, continued to recuperate at the White House.
While the number of White House staff and aides who have tested positive is unknown, given the administration’s cloak of secrecy around the outbreak, total cases appeared to number in the dozens, making the White House one of the hottest active zones for virus circulation in the entire US.
A day after the president returned from the military hospital in Maryland where he had been treated for the disease, at least two additional cases of Covid-19 were diagnosed in his immediate circle.
A military attache, Jayna McCarron, tested positive, as did a valet, an active-duty member of the military who traveled with Trump last week, Bloomberg first reported.
Gen Milley’s decision to quarantine was first reported by CNN. He and other leaders attended a recent White House reception for military families that was also attended by the president and the first lady, Melania Trump, who also tested positive. But other reports quoted anonymous officials as saying the military outbreak was not believed to be linked to the White House.
The only information about Trump’s health was communicated by the president himself, who interrupted a stream of invective and attacks on opponents to tweet: “FEELING GREAT!”
Such triumphant messaging was echoed by Republican supporters on cable TV and social media but undercut by a confirmed US death toll of more than 210,000 and a caseload over 7.5 million.
Trump also attempted to downplay the dangers of coronavirus but was censured by social media platforms, which slapped a warning message on a tweet comparing the virus to the flu, or removed it altogether.
“This tweet violated the Twitter Rules about spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to Covid-19,” the company said in a label superimposed on Trump’s words.
On Monday night, in a highly choreographed arrival at the White House from Walter Reed national military medical center in Bethesda, Trump attempted to project a message of indomitability.
After a three-day hospital stay, the president stepped off the Marine One helicopter just before 7pm and walked up the south portico staircase. He stopped in front of an illuminated entrance with four US flags, turned to face the south lawn – and brazenly removed his mask while posing for cameras.
Trump waved, gave two thumbs up and saluted as Marine One flew off. A photographer stood close by. Video footage suggested the president was breathing hard. He then waved and walked inside, where masked staff were visible, only to re-emerge for what appeared to be a film shoot.
In the film, which he tweeted soon after, Trump offered bizarrely contrary advice about the virus: “Don’t let it dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it. You’re gonna beat it. We have the best medical equipment. We have the best medicines, all developed recently.”
The president added: “Nobody that’s a leader would not do what I did. And I know there’s a risk, there’s a danger, but that’s OK. And now I’m better and maybe I’m immune – I don’t know! But don’t let it dominate your lives. Get out there. Be careful.”
Critics were stunned. Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress thinktank, told MSNBC: “I could not imagine a greater act of selfishness by a human being, let alone the president of the United States, who is supposed to protect us. He’s doing the opposite, he’s endangering people around him.”
Trump, who had already admitted he deliberately downplayed the virus for months, announced on Twitter his intention to return to the campaign “soon”. Such messaging appeared to confirm predictions that if Trump stays relatively healthy, he will attempt to use his own experience to again downplay the virus.
Earlier on Monday, Sean Conley, the White House physician whose credibility has been questioned, explained why Trump was leaving hospital.
“He’s met or exceeded all standard discharge criteria,” Conley said, adding: “We send patients home with medications all the time. In fact, yesterday afternoon he probably met most of his discharge requirements.”
A reporter asked how this would be safe, referring to Trump’s drive-by of supporters on Sunday and his return to the White House, where staff are reportedly in turmoil.
Conley said: “The president has been surrounded by medical and security staff for days wearing full PPE. And yesterday [during the drive] the US Secret Service agents were in that same level of PPE for a very short period of time.”
It had been more than 72 hours since Trump’s last fever, Conley added, and his blood oxygen was normal. “Though he may not entirely be out of the woods yet, the team and I agree that all our evaluations and, most importantly, his clinical status, support the president’s safe return home where he’ll be surrounded by world-class medical care 24/7.”
Conley repeatedly declined to say if Trump’s lungs had suffered inflammation or when he received his last negative test.
Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious diseases expert and White House taskforce member, warned on CNN that Trump could experience a “reversal”.
“I’m not involved in his primary care,” Fauci said. “But the issue is that he’s still early enough in the disease that it’s no secret that if you look at the clinical course of people sometimes, when you’re five to eight days in, you can have a reversal.”
On his return, Trump found a White House diminished by Covid-19, his press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, two junior communications staff and two housekeeping staff having tested positive on Monday.
Personnel have flouted public health guidelines for months. There are concerns the outbreak could threaten the running of government.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: US military chiefs in quarantine as Trump Covid chaos spreads | US military