President Donald Trump shook hands with CPAC chairman Matt Schlapp at the conservative conference last week, during which Schlapp engaged with an attendee who has since tested positive for the coronavirus.
The American Conservative Union said in a statement that the CPAC attendee was exposed to the coronavirus prior to the conference, which took place Feb. 26-29 in National Harbor, Maryland.
The ACU claimed that the infected attendee is quarantined in New Jersey and had no interaction with Trump or Vice President Mike Pence, both of whom spoke at the conference.
“This attendee had no interaction with the president or the vice president and never attended the events in the main hall,” the group said in a statement. “The Trump administration is aware of the situation, and we will continue regular communication with all appropriate government officials.”
However, Washington Post political reporter Colby Itkowitz claimed on Twitter Saturday that Schlapp said he interacted with the attendee.
“While the timeline is unknown, Schlapp shook Trump’s hand on stage the last day of the conference,” Itkowitz noted.
A spokesperson from the White House did not comment.
“At this time there is no indication that either President Trump or Vice President Pence met with or were in close proximity to the attendee,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement obtained by the New York Times. “The President’s physician and United States Secret Service have been working closely with White House Staff and various agencies to ensure every precaution is taken to keep the First Family and the entire White House Complex safe and healthy.”
On Saturday, Trump was at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, telling reporters that he was “not concerned at all” about the coronavirus getting closer to the White House.
Grisham recently announced that Trump had donated his most recent quarterly paycheck to support the response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
He gave $100,000 to the government’s Department of Health and Human Services
As the coronavirus outbreak, which began in China in December, spreads around the world, infecting more than 93,000 and killing more than 3,100 as of March 3, Trump has maintained a rosier view than other American experts and said criticism of him is politically motivated.
“This virus won’t last forever. We have contained it,” Trump’s economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said last week.
That same day, however, the CDC’s Dr. Nancy Messonnier told reporters that health officials had become more concerned about the virus’ rapid rate of infection.
While officials all agree the risk to the average American is low, the president has repeatedly touted that his administration is doing a “great job” and blamed public worries on conniving Democrats.
“The spread in other countries has raised our level of concern and raised our level of expectation that we are going to have community spread here,” said Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC. “We’re asking folks in every sector as well as people within their families to start planning for this, because as we’ve seen from the recent countries that have had community spread, when it’s hit in those countries it has moved quite rapidly so we want to make sure that the American public is prepared.”
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Last week, Trump named Pence the point person on the federal government’s response.
Trump critics pointed back to Pence’s handling of an HIV outbreak in Indiana while he was governor there, which experts have said was preventable except for a delay in implementing clean needle exchange programs to aid the drug users spreading the virus.
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