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Doctors have warned that US President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, may have exposed “hundreds” of people to the coronavirus before he tested positive.
Trump revealed Giuliani’s diagnosis on social media yesterday, telling him to “get better soon”. The President praised his lawyer for “working tirelessly exposing the most corrupt election by far” in US history.
That work is the reason health experts are so worried.
In the week before he became symptomatic and tested positive, Giuliani travelled to three different states, leading Trump’s thus far fruitless effort to overturn the election result.
Giuliani appeared at public events with hundreds of attendees, where he did not wear a face mask or practise social distancing.
The most immediate concern here, of course, is the health of Giuliani himself. At 76, he is firmly in the age group most vulnerable to severe complications from the virus.
He has been receiving care at Georgetown University Medical Center. In a brief statement yesterday, Giuliani said he was “feeling good” and “recovering quickly”.
The secondary concern, though, is whether Giuliani transmitted the virus to anyone else.
He spent a chunk of last week flying across the country, speaking to state politicians and giving a platform to dozens of witnesses the Trump campaign is citing to back up its claims of widespread voter fraud.
On Wednesday, Giuliani was in Michigan for a hearing with the state legislature’s Oversight Committee.
That hearing got a fair bit of attention due to the testimony from one of Giuliani’s more colourful witnesses, Melissa Carone.
The next day, Giuliani visited Atlanta, Georgia, and attended a hearing with state senators.
According to Senator William Ligon, the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Giuliani was “in close proximity to senators, Senate staff, members of the media and the general public”.
Video footage showed him mingling with people in close quarters.
“That is the thing about that video that is so concerning to me, and that makes me, frankly, so disturbed,” Dr Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician, told CNN.
“We know that the two days before someone develops symptoms, before they test positive, are the time when they are most infectious.”
Last Monday, Giuliani spent hours speaking to Republican politicians in Arizona at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix Hotel.
The following day, he held private meetings with some of the politicians, including House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Majority Leader Warren Peterson.
This photo shows him posing with Republican Senator Vince Leach.
Arizona’s state legislature has now shut down for a week “out of an abundance of caution”.
“We’ve seen, over the past few months, politician after politician who fails to follow the CDC’s recommendations. That’s bad enough because they’re sending a bad message to the public,” Ranney said.
“Our politicians should be doing the right thing. What’s even worse is that his irresponsible actions have potentially put others at risk as well.”
Other medical experts have voiced the same concern. For example, Dr Leana Wen – another emergency room physician, and a former city health commissioner in Baltimore – said Giuliani could have exposed “many dozens or hundreds” of people.
Trump’s legal team is less worried. Yesterday, it released a statement downplaying the possibility that Giuliani infected others.
“Mayor Giuliani tested twice negatively immediately preceding his trip to Arizona, Michigan and Georgia,” it said.
“The mayor did not experience any symptoms or test positive for Covid-19 until more than 48 hours after his return [from Georgia].
“No legislators in any state or members of the press are on the contact tracing list, under current CDC guidelines. Other team members who are defined as having had close contact will be following their physicians directives and CDC guidelines on isolation and testing.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a “close contact” of someone with Covid-19 as anybody who was within two metres for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more, starting from two days before the onset of symptoms.
That is the same definition New Zealand uses.
As Giuliani did not start to experience symptoms until more than 48 hours after he returned from his trip, none of the people he met in Arizona, Michigan or Georgia are considered close contacts by the CDC.
The broader state of the pandemic in the US is increasingly grim. New cases and hospitalisations are at record levels
Specifically, the country is currently averaging 192,000 infections each day, along with 2170 deaths, and 101,500 people are hospitalised.
The Trump administration’s Surgeon-General, Dr Jerome Adams, appeared on Good Morning America with a pointed message for Americans who’ve failed to take simple steps to stop the virus’s spread.
“It’s really concerning to me that we still have people out there that don’t understand how much spread is occurring by people who don’t have symptoms, who think they’re fine. And then we find out a week later that they’ve tested positive and they have exposed other people. That is very concerning,” Adams said.
He did not mention Giuliani by name.
“I want the American people to know this virus is incredibly unforgiving. Cases are going up, hospitalisations are going up. My colleagues are dog-tired,” he said.
“And we need you to hold on just a little bit longer, because we’ve got vaccines coming, but we want as many people to be alive to get them as possible.”
One American is dying of coronavirus every 30 seconds and Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s chief health expert, is warning that the country faces a “crisis situation” in the months to come.
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