Top public health expert on the massive contact-tracing effort President Trump’s positive test necessitates — anyone in a meeting or close to him for an extended period over the last week or so could now be exposed to COVID-19.


First published in October 2020.


This is a nightmare. COVID-19 is a serious infection, especially for someone who is older like Mr Trump. I cannot believe he was infected. This is a total failure by the White House team to protect the President.

First and foremost, we wish President Trump and the First Lady a speedy recovery.

The President was diagnosed with SARS-CoV2 infection in the evening of October 1. We need to sort out who else has been infected.

The incubation period of the infection is 2 to 14 days, but the reality is that it is usually 3 to 5 days.

So, depending on when he was previously tested, it is reasonable to assume the following: He was likely infected between Saturday and Monday. It could have been earlier or possibly Tuesday (though unlikely). If he was infected over the weekend, then he was infectious to others from Tuesday on.

It is not clear who infected the President. It might be Ms Hicks, but it is also possible that they had a common source.

So, what does that mean? This will be a big contact tracing effort. Everyone who has been near the President at least from Saturday on needs to be identified. Anyone near Ms Hicks from Monday on, and anyone near the President from Tuesday on should quarantine. I would go back, test everyone near the President from, at least, Saturday on to see if we can identify the source.

What does “near the President” mean? Certainly anyone within 6 ft of the President, for 15 minutes. But it could be more. If someone was in an enclosed space with him or Ms Hicks during their contagious period and not wearing a mask, they are at risk.

This is why I call this a nightmare.

This is likely a lot of folks and many senior government leaders.

If you know me, you know I love testing... But testing is only one layer of protection. Everyone around the President should have always worn masks. People should have been doing social distancing. And limited his contacts.

We will get through this. But there is now a lot to do to identify everyone, quarantine and test folks.🔷



Dr Ashish K. Jha, Physician, health policy researcher. Dean of the School of Public Health, Professor of Health Services, Policy and Practice, Brown University, Rhode Island.


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[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 2 October 2020 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected, and published with the author’s consent. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

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(Cover: Flickr/The White House. - Donald Trump before being test positive to coronavirus. | 30 September 2020. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)

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