Hours before President Donald Trump announced to the world that he and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus, the president held a fundraiser with dozens of his supporters at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he posed for photos and greeted big donors face-to-face over dinner.
The Washington Post reported that the president did not wear a mask at the fundraiser; tickets ran from $2,800 for single admission to the reception, to $250,000 for a "roundtable discussion" and photo with the president. For months, members of Trump's Bedminster golf course have eschewed New Jersey's social distancing guidelines and mask protocol, and the president has defended them.
"I had to be COVID-19 tested, everyone did," Dr. Rich Roberts, an attendee at the dinner said in a video posted on The Lakewood Scoop. Dr. Roberts said there were 19 people at the dinner table, and that the discussion lasted between 45 minutes and an hour.
No cell phones were allowed during the fundraiser itself, but several attendees posted photos on social media.
"Sat across from the President today 🇺🇸 I don’t care who you vote for during this election but know that your vote MATTERS," Natalie Workman wrote on Instagram.
Another attendee, Patricia Bosisio Schecter, posted photos from the event; few people are seen wearing masks in the pictures, though one person who is appears to be a member of the club's staff.
"So our President and First Lady have unfortunately tested positive for Covid. Praying for them but I’m sure they will get through this," Schecter later posted on Facebook. "We were with him literally 30 seconds for our photo and other than that never close to him. He is asymptomatic so according to the CDC there is NO RISK OF INFECTION. Also please note that IF INFECTED the survival rate for my age group is 99.5%. We are good!"
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website clearly states, "COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms," and advises anyone who has been exposed to people who have tested positive for coronavirus, like the president, to quarantine at home for 14 days.
The president's campaign did not respond to a list of questions. A spokesperson for the Republican National Committee maintained that the golf club was cleaned thoroughly, attendees had to complete a wellness exam in addition to a rapid coronavirus test, and that every guest maintained social distancing from the president.
An attendee said that Trump seemed "lethargic," according to the NY Times.
John Sette, the former chair of the Morris County GOP, who also attended the fundraiser, told Gothamist/WNYC, "The event was beautiful. Trump was normal. Goodbye."
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was also in attendance, but said he won't get his COVID-19 test results back until Saturday.
The health department in Somerset County, where Bedminster is located, said in a statement that "the county has reached out to Trump National Golf Course with a request for lists of facility staff, event participants, and other people to help identify those who may have come in close contact with individuals that tested positive. The county Department will recommend appropriate public health control measures to identify close contacts based on the investigation."
The Trump campaign has also reportedly asked people in attendance to seek medical attention if they begin to develop symptoms. Both the president and the first lady are reporting "mild" symptoms. Current New Jersey Governor, Democrat Phil Murphy, wished the president and the first lady "a speedy and complete return to good health," while urging the fundraiser's attendees to self-quarantine.
At a press conference on Friday morning, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows confirmed that President Trump left for the fundraiser shortly after he learned that one of his top aides, Hope Hicks, had just tested positive for COVID-19. "We discovered that right as Marine One was taking off yesterday,” Meadows told reporters (he was not wearing a mask).
“We actually pulled some of the people that had been traveling and in close contact,” Meadows added, explaining that the contact tracing process had just begun. Other senior staff, including Meadows himself, Dan Scavino, and Jared Kushner have since tested negative. Meadows did not offer an explanation for why the president continued on with the fundraiser after learning that he had potentially been exposed to COVID-19, instead of immediately going into quarantine, per CDC guidance.