IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Dr. Rob Davidson Trump and Hope Hicks test positive for Covid-19 as doubters become possible superspreaders

When you don't take precautions, you have a higher chance of becoming a vector or creating a superspreader event without even knowing it.

The Covid-19 pandemic has now sickened its most famous doubter, President Donald Trump. Together with first lady Melania Trump and a presidential adviser, Hope Hicks, who is often by their side, the tally of 7.3 million people in the United States infected with Covid-19 went up by three.

On Friday, the president was flown to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center as a precautionary measure, according to the White House. His condition is still considered "mild," according to White House officials.

As an emergency physician of over 20 years, I have concerns that extend far beyond that — to a wide range of far-reaching public health ramifications that this positive diagnosis will have.

Like many people, I sincerely hope the president and his family get well and don't contribute to the steadily rising death toll of over 209,000 Americans.

Want more articles like this? Follow THINK on Instagram to get updates on the week's most important coronavirus analysis

Yet as an emergency physician of over 20 years, I have concerns that extend far beyond that — to a wide range of far-reaching public health ramifications that this positive diagnosis will have. Stated simply, when you don't take precautions, you have a higher chance of becoming a vector or creating a superspreader event without even knowing it. These interactions ripple out, with communities that institutionally don't follow strict precautionary measures likely to be at more risk. And the president of the United States may very well have been in the middle of just such an event.

The truth is, this development must be a wake-up call to the nation.

Because it shows us what denial does. Denial doesn't affect just one person. We still don't know exactly when the president contracted the virus or how he got it. What we do know is that he may have put himself and possibly many, many other people in harm's way because of a lack of strict mask and social distancing protocols. At times, such as during the presidential debate Tuesday, the president has even scoffed at such precautions.

We know that there are many people in the president's circle and those they encountered who may have been exposed to Covid-19: the president's staff, Vice President Mike Pence's family and staff, the presidential entourage, and White House housekeepers, interns and junior employees, not to mention everyone those people come into close contact with.

Beyond that circle, we must worry about the crowds who attended the 20-plus campaign rallies Trump has held in recent weeks and the people Trump and his family — often unmasked — interacted with during the first presidential debate in Cleveland just two days before we learned that the president himself had tested positive.

In the past week alone, Team Trump crisscrossed much of the country for events in Ohio, Minnesota and New Jersey. Several people who attended a large White House event with Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on Sept. 26 have tested positive. That ceremony, which included more than 150 mostly unmasked guests sitting close together in the Rose Garden, was a carefree affair seemingly untethered from the pandemic's reality.

Kellyanne Conway, a former top aide to Trump, announced Friday night that she had also tested positive. Conway attended the Rose Garden event.

Meanwhile, at least 11 positive tests have been traced back to the presidential debate in Cleveland. In New Jersey, officials are worried that a Trump fundraiser in Bedminster could also turn out to have been a superspreader event.

"There's probably several superspreader events mixed up in this one scenario," Susie Welty, a contact tracing expert and technical director of surveillance at the University of California, San Francisco, said in an interview with USA Today.

While Covid-19 has exposed a structural inequity in our society, killing twice as many Black people and hospitalizing nearly five times as many Hispanic and Latino patients as white people, this new virus also strikes without discrimination when given repeated opportunities to infect. The most powerful man in the world and his family, especially without taking the precautions their own top scientists advised, aren't immune.

As a veteran of emergency medicine, I have experienced enough to know that medicine is 90 percent science and 10 percent luck. In my career I have watched farmers who've never seen a doctor in their lives survive heart attacks. I've had to tearfully console mothers and fathers who lost their precious children to accidental ingestions.

This must be a frightening, sobering time for Trump and his family.

And yet, for nearly a year, physicians have screamed at the top of our lungs that we must all take this pandemic seriously. We have screamed this on TV and radio, in editorial pages and in Zoom meetings. We have despaired over hospital visitors who refused to wear masks because their president repeatedly told them Covid-19 was overblown and would soon be over.

We can only wonder how many more people would still be with us if all Americans had avoided large holiday gatherings on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day.

We have warned the armed individuals at state capitals protesting their governors' stay-at-home orders. We continue to counsel the parents who still send their children to school even with symptoms consistent with Covid-19, the college students still hosting crowded frat parties and the shoppers throwing tantrums about social distancing at grocery stores.

Covid-19 is real.

I believe that if Trump had pushed to make every American wear a mask from the time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended it in April, tens of thousands of Americans could still be alive. I believe that if Trump had told Americans to stay home this summer and if states had closed bars and indoor dining facilities, many people wouldn't have needlessly gotten sick.

We can only wonder how many more people would still be with us if all Americans had avoided large holiday gatherings on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day.

Trump has, since February, had opportunities to do the hard work of implementing a national pandemic strategy that focused on extensive testing, robust contact tracing, stay-at-home orders that came with social support, mask requirements and consistent science-based information sharing.

Instead, our nation got mixed messages, distraction and denials and not enough tests and masks. Trump's positive test proves what we already know: This virus is still very dangerous, and trying to deny the danger puts not only yourself, but also countless other people at risk.

Related: