President Donald Trump is expected to travel to Doral, Florida, later this week, landing squarely in the center of a coronavirus hotspot and taxing the already limited local health resources.
Despite the raging coronavirus pandemic, Trump will turn his attention Friday to the issue of drug trafficking in South America, visiting US Southern Command for a briefing, a White House official confirmed to CNN. The trip was first reported by Politico.
Trump will also attend a campaign fundraiser on Friday, an official told CNN.
Doral, Florida, where US Southern Command is located, is just under two miles from the President’s golf club. But it is also in Miami-Dade County, which is currently experiencing a coronavirus outbreak.
CNN reported earlier Tuesday that Miami-Dade County has seen a 90% increase in the number of Covid-19 patients being hospitalized in the past 13 days, according to the latest data released by Miami-Dade County Government. It has also seen a staggering increase in the number of ICU beds being used (86%) and in the use of ventilators (127%).
A presidential visit – no matter who is in office – requires a significant amount of resources, with White House officials, White House Medical Unit representatives and US Secret Service agents traveling in advance of the president to coordinate with local officials on the ground. There is an extensive amount of medical preparation involved each time a president travels, with plans in place for the worst case scenario.
There is always a primary hospital, usually designated by the White House Medical Unit ahead of a trip. There is “an in-depth, comprehensive survey of that hospital” for its medical capabilities, said former Secret Service Agent Jonathan Wackrow, a CNN contributor.
The White House Medical Unit and Secret Service will assess the hospital and coordinate logistics with staff to be prepared for any type of medical emergency. They will also install secure communications such that agents traveling on the ground can quickly be in touch with the hospital, where an agent is always in place. Transportation routes and airlift options are planned and tested in advance.
When he was involved with presidential travel during the Obama administration, Wackrow said he would talk to several hospital officials ahead of a visit, doing a walk through and communicating with the charge nurse, attending doctors and multiple section chiefs. There’s also a press component involved – in the event of a transfer of power under the 25th Amendment, there are plans for a place for a news conference and where the transfer of government would take place.
There is usually a trauma bay reserved for the President, but it’s possible that one is just designated rather than taken out of commission when a hospital is particularly taxed.
“We’re not going to displace any medical care to be on standby for the President, but if he goes there, there will be a significant impact to the hospital,” Wackrow said.
During a walkthrough before a trip like this, officials would don personal protective equipment, potentially moving through areas where Covid-19 patients are being treated and risking exposure. From a time perspective, doctors and nurses will spend some amount of time planning and communicating with the President’s team.
Additionally, there are “overflight hospitals” designated ahead of a visit, multiple hospitals where Air Force One could quickly land in the event of a medical emergency on its route.
Meanwhile, Miami’s Jackson Health System has seen an 120% increase in Covid-19 patients in the past two weeks, according to data posted by the hospital system on Twitter. On June 20, Jackson Health reported 157 Covid-19 patients. By Monday, they reported 345. Jackson Health System is a nonprofit academic medical system.
The state of Florida does not release the number of current Covid-19 patients in the state. The state only releases the number of available hospital beds, which is currently 14,324 (24%).
The 14-day average positivity rate in Miami-Dade County is 23%, according to data released by county government.
It’s possible the Friday event will coincide with an executive order on immigration. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters Monday the White House is “going to look at a number of issues as it relates to immigration” for a forthcoming executive order.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Rosa Flores and Sara Weisfeldt contributed to this report.