The White House cluster

Coronavirus Daily
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The White House cluster

Most of the world sees the President Donald Trump's infection with Covid-19 as a political problem. How will he continue his campaign for reelection as he recuperates in isolation? And what does this say about his response strategy?

To pandemic experts at the World Health Organization, the cases of Trump, his wife Melania and adviser Hope Hicks represent something far more simple: they're a cluster.

"In the classic epidemic dictionary, two cases of any disease that are linked in space and time can be considered to be an epidemic or a cluster," Mike Ryan, executive director of the agency's Health Emergencies Program, said in a Friday press conference. "There clearly is a cluster of cases occurring" at the White House.

To disease-trackers like Ryan, a cluster is something that cries out for investigation and explanation. How did the pathogen get there? What allowed it to spread? How can future events be avoided?

"This is epidemiology 101, and quite frankly many of our colleagues in the U.S. and the CDC in the United States taught the world epidemiology 101," he said.

Under Trump, the federal government has shirked the task of coordinating surveillance of the virus, a job that would usually fall to the sidelined Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State and local programs to test, track and trace the infected and exposed have performed poorly, unlike those in Germany, South Korea and other countries that have brought the virus largely to heel.

"There is no reason why the United States of America cannot control this disease," Ryan said. "That requires work. Corners don't turn by themselves."

Vaccine programs that Trump has thrown billions of dollars at are part of the solution, but not all of it. It's time to recognize the value of public health, and use it.

Listen Up

What Trump's Diagnosis Means

President Donald Trump's diagnosis of coronavirus has raised questions about everything from the Supreme Court nominating process to the possibility of future presidential debates. And of course, the unprecedented possibility of a candidate being removed from the ticket this late in an election year.

Photographer: Patricia Suzara

Photographer: Patricia Suzara


What you should read

The Day Covid-19 Came to Trump's White House
The president proceeded with fundraiser despite aide falling ill.
Republican War on Covid Orders Grinds On
Many believe that the peak of the pandemic has passed.
World's Best Airport Warns of 'Daunting' Future
Changi Airport Group said the impact from the pandemic isn't abating.
Relief Bill Passed by House Includes Eviction Ban
The $2.2 trillion stimulus package was passed by House Democrats.
Pence, Harris Will Be 12 Feet Apart at Debate
Debate commission had initially required a buffer of 7 feet.

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