Story at a glance
- Following President Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis, the White House reportedly rejected the CDC’s offers to help contact trace the outbreak.
- The cluster of positive cases seems to have stemmed from a crowded event in the Rose Garden.
White House officials have reportedly declined offers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide resources to help contact trace the coronavirus outbreak that infected President Trump, first lady Melania Trump and advisers Hope Hicks and Kellyanne Conway.
USA Today reported that the CDC extended the offer “almost immediately” following Trump’s diagnosis late last week and repeated it over a Monday phone call with the White House medical unit.
Contact tracing is an epidemiological tactic used to investigate the source of an outbreak of an infectious disease, and has frequently been supported as one of the best ways of controlling the COVID-19 pandemic.
USA Today reviewed internal CDC memos and interviews and found that current and former CDC officials felt the White House deliberately avoided learning about the severity of the outbreak, which is believed to have occurred during a White House Rose Garden event for Trump's Supreme Court nominee late last month. The majority of guests were photographed not wearing masks and sitting in close proximity.
“CDC, when left in the hands of its scientists, makes tough decisions and helps implement them and maybe that's not what the White House wants,” Jeffrey Koplan, a former CDC director, reportedly said. “They seem to be marching toward a different goal. It’s a petty one and a partisan one. And all of us pay the price.”
CDC spokesman Tom Skinner confirmed to reporters that the White House had not taken the CDC up on its offer to contact trace the Rose Garden event.
White House spokesperson Judd Deere told USA Today that the White House is working with the CDC and following its guidelines.
“The White House is following CDC guidelines and has a full-time detailed CDC epidemiologist on staff who has been here since March,” he said.
The CDC and White House have been at odds over the course of the pandemic, with multiple reports emerging that indicate the Trump administration is attempting to exert influence over the CDC’s public health messaging.
Some experts say it is unusual that the CDC is not investigating a localized outbreak.
Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development who assisted the Obama administration with the Ebola outbreak, said, “In any normal administration, the CDC case investigators would be all over this,” adding that the CDC was established to help study just such disease clusters.