On Thursday night, President Donald Trump did what he often does on Thursday night: Watch football Call into Sean Hannity’s Fox News show.
Hannity began the interview with a very basic question about Trump’s testing regimen for the virus – especially since his positive test last Thursday night. Here’s the exchange that occurred:
Hannity: Have you been tested recently?
Trump: Fortunately, the – yes, I just saw the doctors today. They think I’m in great shape. I’m in great shape.
Hannity: Did you test negative?
Trump: I know when I’m in good shape or not. And I will tell you, I took this Regeneron. It’s phenomenal. And Eli Lilly has something very comparable. It’s phenomenal. And it’s a whole new day. It’s a whole – and if you go back a few months, nobody ever even thought about this stuff. We came up with it. And I’m going to have it delivered to every hospital where you have sick people with the Covid, or the China virus, as we call it. And we are going to make people better.
It actually made me better. I went in. I could have left a day later. I’m telling you, Sean, it was incredible. So, that’s Regeneron. But, again, Eli Lilly has something similar. The kind of things we’re coming up with now are incredible, remdesivir, but that’s a little bit different, works much differently, actually. But these things are absolutely incredible.
I think I’m going to try doing a rally on Saturday night, if we can – if we have enough time to put it together. But we want to do a rally in Florida – probably in Florida on Saturday night. Might come back and do one in Pennsylvania in the following night. And it’s incredible, what’s going on. I feel so good.
Hannity: Have you had a test since your diagnosis a week ago?
Trump: Well, what we’re doing is probably the test will be tomorrow, the actual test, because there’s no reason to test all the time. But they found very little infection or virus, if any. I don’t know that they found any.
So, not going to answer the question then, I guess? Remember that Trump is not, in fact, a medical doctor. Nor is he an infectious disease expert. Which means that when Hannity asks Trump if he has tested negative and he responds, “I know when I’m in good shape or not,” well, that means absolutely nothing.
Trump’s evasiveness came just hours after Dr. Sean Conley, the White House physician, who has his own struggles with telling the truth about Trump’s condition, released a memo arguing that Trump was now free to resume in-person activities on Saturday.
“Saturday will be day 10 since Thursday’s diagnosis, and based on the trajectory of advanced diagnostics the team has been conducting, I fully anticipate the President’s safe return to public engagements at that time,” wrote Conley.
And soon after that, Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, who himself has Covid-19, released a statement citing Coney’s report as proof that “there is no medical reason why the Commission on Presidential Debates should shift the debate to a virtual setting, postpone it, or otherwise alter it in any way.” (The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Thursday morning that the second presidential debate, set for October 15, would be virtual – based on advice from the Cleveland Clinic; Trump told Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo he would not participate in a virtual debate soon after the announcement.)
While guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues over the summer does not require a patient to receive a negative test before returning to normal activities, the caginess of Trump and his White House on testing is neither new nor terribly transparent.
The White House has yet to answer repeated questions about when Trump last tested negative prior to his positive test last Thursday. “I don’t know when he last tested negative,” White House spokesman Brian Morgenstern said Wednesday, the day Trump returned to the Oval Office. “We’re not asking to go back through a bunch of records and look backwards.”
On Thursday, White House communications director Alyssa Farah told reporters she “can’t reveal that at this time,” when asked about the last time Trump tested negative. “My understanding is that it’s his private medical history.” Of course, the White House has released LOTS of other medical information about Trump – all of which supports their case that he is recovering quickly and well from his Covid-19 diagnosis.
Why does it matter when Trump last tested negative? Because, if officials had that information, they would be able to conceptualize the universe of people that Trump had potentially infected between that last negative test and his positive test eight days ago. According to all reports, Trump was showing symptoms last Thursday but we know that the virus can incubate in the body from anywhere between two and 14 days after exposure – meaning that Trump could well have been infectious for days before he tested positive. And could have exposed any number of people to the virus.
But the White House won’t answer that question. Just like Trump won’t answer if he has tested negative for the virus now – even as he insists he is ready to return to the campaign trial and the debate stage.
Trump and his team are essentially asking the public – and former Vice President Joe Biden, who would be in the same room as Trump next week for the debate – to simply take his word for it that all is well. The President’s track record on truth, however, suggests we all should be very skeptical of his word.