Trump contracts COVID-19

IT’S THE DEFINITION of irony. After months of downplaying the pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans, President Trump and first lady Melania Trump say they have tested positive for coronavirus and are in isolation. The death two weeks ago of Ruth Bader Ginsburg seemed to upend the presidential race by suddenly thrusting a battle over a Supreme Court seat into the mix. With today’s news, we’ve gone from the frying pan into the fire. 

Just before 1 a.m. Trump tweeted, “Tonight, FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” Trump, who is 74, has been in very close contact with aide Hope Hicks, who developed symptoms of COVID-19 on Wednesday and has tested positive for the virus. 

The stunning turn of events, in which the head of state of the nation with the most COVID-19 cases and deaths contracted the disease himself, brings an avalanche of questions. 

One. The election is only 32 days away. What will the impact be? The Trumps, if they follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocol, must isolate for at least 10 days, be without symptoms, and test negative for the virus before interacting with others again. That could put into question Trump’s ability to take part in the second presidential debate, which is 13 days away. Obviously if the president becomes seriously ill, it will raise all sorts of further questions and could impact the outcome of the election.

Two. With the Secret Service and other security personnel charged with keeping the president safe, how did Trump manage to contract a potentially deadly virus, and why didn’t they lay down the law with a president known to shirk personal protective equipment protocols in order to protect him? The same could be asked about Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the White House coronavirus task force in charge of combatting the virus and its spread.

Three. The circumstances of the last few days raise other troubling questions about safety and health protocols. Despite Hicks already being ill, Trump hosted a fundraising event Thursday night in New Jersey, just hours before receiving his own positive test result. He shared the debate stage on Tuesday with former vice president Joe Biden, who hasn’t shared if he’s been tested. Trump has also been in close contact over the past week with many White House officials and Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett and her family. It might be time for the White House to employ an elite team of contact tracers.

Four. Finally, will the jarring turn of events change Trump’s pandemic messaging? In January, Trump said of the virus to a CNBC reporter, “It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.” When the CDC made its recommendation in April that people wear face coverings, Trump said that it was going to be “a voluntary thing” and emphasized that he would not do it. He didn’t wear one in public until July at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Journalist Bob Woodward’s taped interviews with Trump reveal that he knew much more about the severity of the virus than he said publicly in the early days of the pandemic.

Trump has argued for weeks that the nation has “turned a corner” on the pandemic, despite the CDC reporting COVID-19 cases trending upward in 26 states on September 29. He even said the “end of the pandemic is in sight” yesterday, hours before testing positive. The public generally looks to the president for guidance on important national issues. In the case of the COVID pandemic, Trump has signaled to anti-maskers that it’s fine to show up without face coverings at huge rallies he holds and to ridicule the cautions urged by public health officials. 

What Trump does and says next could determine whether the American public is finally unified in approaching the virus with the seriousness that has been warranted all along.

SARAH BETANCOURT

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Gov. Charlie Baker, apparently concerned about long wait times for Uber and Lyft rides, is seeking to lift the state’s ban on surge pricing during the COVID-19 emergency.

Court rules an unauthorized tenant can be evicted, highlighting a gray area in the state’s eviction moratorium law.

A bill extending the state’s eviction and foreclosure moratorium is reported out of a House committee, along with a provision that would allow landlords to claim a tax credit for the amount of rent they aren’t paid.

Rising state GOP star Stephanie Fattman is facing a challenge from a long-time employee of her office.

Opinion: In the I-90 Allston interchange debate, don’t forget about the importance of the Grand Junction rail line to Cambridge and North Station, says business leader C.A. Webb, Robert Coughlin, and Tim Murray.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

BEACON HILL

Although the four largest cities in Massachusetts are listed in the COVID-19 “red zone,” Gov. Charlie Baker says the state will continue allowing businesses to open or expand capacity as long as they operate in areas with low levels of COVID-19 transmission. (GBH)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

In a column that looks particularly ill-timed, Howie Carr continues to belittle those warning against indoor gatherings, this time taking aim at Boston Mayor Marty Walsh for urging people not to hold or attend parties this weekend to watch the Patriots game. (Boston Herald

Springfield’s black and Latino leaders are angry that black mayoral aide Darryl Moss was fired over an inflammatory pro-Black Lives Matter social media post. (MassLive)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Massachusetts reports 708 new COVID-19 cases, the largest one-day spike since the end of May. (WCVB) Is the state ready for a second surge? (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

Massachusetts voters have contributed $16.4 million to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, making the state Biden’s fifth-largest donor base. President Trump collected $6.5 million from Massachusetts residents. (The Salem News)

President Trump’s homestretch campaign approach appeared to be tapping into white grievances among his hardcore base. (Boston Globe)

State Rep. Tram Nguyen of Andover, who was born in Vietnam, has been the target of race-baiting robocalls as she wages her first reelection bid after winning office two years ago. (Boston Globe)

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the state’s counties could have just a single drop-off location for mail-in ballots for the November election, a move that drew charges of voter suppression from Democrats. (Washington Post)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Bar owners, forced to remain closed for over six months, are questioning how long their businesses can survive. (MassLive)

A developer wants to reopen Doyle’s Cafe in Jamaica Plain as part of a new condo complex on the site of the venerable Boston watering hole. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

A federal judge throws out most elements of a class action lawsuit against Northeastern University seeking reimbursement for a remote learning experience. (WBUR)

The first Boston public school students returned to classrooms but rising rates in the city raised questions about whether the district would have to pull back on in-person learning. (Boston Globe)

Merrimack Valley high schools are among the districts delaying the start of high school sports due to rising COVID-19 caseloads. (Eagle-Tribune)

ARTS/CULTURE

Two nonprofit arts groups — the Enter Stage Left Theatre and the Hopkinton Center for the Arts — merge. (MetroWest Daily News)

The second annual Black Women’s Film Conference is in its fourth and final week of programming, with documentaries streaming online for free. (Bay State Banner)

The old Bell School House in Westport, built in 1841, is getting a facelift. (Standard-Times)

TRANSPORTATION

Officials marked the halfway point in completing the MBTA’s $2.3 billion Green Line extension. (Boston Herald

After MassDOT releases new estimated ridership numbers for Boston to Springfield high-speed rail, rail champion Sen. Eric Lesser calls the new numbers flawed and says they could jeopardize the ability to get federal funding for the project. (MassLive)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Federal investigators are investigating unplanned gas releases at the Weymouth compressor gas station. (WBUR) The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said the large volumes of natural gas released during the shutdowns and the station’s location near densely populated neighborhoods create significant risks. (Patriot Ledger) 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The Supreme Judicial Court recently heard arguments in a case that will determine whether state and local governments can keep the public in the dark about information that originates from the federal government. (DigBoston)

Calls and texts made by Thomas Latanowich in the aftermath of his alleged murder of Yarmouth police Sgt. Sean Gannon, including a voicemail in which he says he killed a cop, can be used as evidence in Latanowich’s upcoming trial, a Barnstable Superior Court judge ruled. (Cape Cod Times)