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President Trump’s doctor said Trump is not currently on oxygen, but would not say whether he ever received oxygen since his COVID-19 diagnosis.

USA TODAY

For months President Donald Trump has insisted that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s administration needs to be held fully accountable for what he has declared is the “secrecy, deception and cover-up” that enabled COVID-19 to spread all over the world. 

In the early days of the pandemic, China arrested and then silenced doctors who expressed concern about a strange new respiratory illness that appeared to be upending patterns of life and work across the sprawling city of Wuhan. 

How China beat coronavirus: Experts say America couldn’t handle it

Now it’s the Trump administration that appears to be hush-hush when it comes to revealing information about how coronavirus spread all over the White House. 

In addition to Trump and the first lady, a growing number of senior government officials and aides have tested positive for the virus. Trump has returned to the White House after spending three nights in the hospital. There are discrepancies in accounts of how sick he is. He says he feels better than he did “20 years ago,” though he appears to be out of breath in video footage of his return to the White House. He urged Americans “don’t be afraid of Covid” – public health messages that critics and health experts have slammed as woefully irresponsible and dangerous for the leader of a country that has surpassed 210,000 coronavirus deaths and 7.4 million infections.

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Donald Trump staged a dramatic return to the White House Monday night after leaving the military hospital where he has been receiving an unprecedented level of care for COVID-19. Trump entered the White House without wearing a protective mask. (Oct. 5)

AP Domestic

‘Reckless to a shocking degree’: Reaction to Trump saying not to ‘be afraid of Covid’ 

But many questions remain unanswered: The White House says Trump started to feel unwell on Thursday and tested positive later that evening. When did he last test negative before that? The answer could reveal whether Trump was being tested as regularly as his administration has claimed. It could indicate, for example, whether he tried to conceal his condition and participated in a campaign rally in Minnesota on Sept. 30 while knowingly unwell. Although the White House later issued a statement claiming he “misspoke,” Trump’s physician Sean Conley said Saturday that the president’s initial diagnosis came “72 hours ago” – a Sept. 30 timeframe.

A code of silence or at least confusion has reigned over questions to do with Trump’s health. His doctors and aides and Trump himself have offered a wide range of possibilities. On Friday, his symptoms were said to be “mild.” The next day, reporting revealed that Trump had been running a high fever and received supplemental oxygen for breathing difficulties. Conley said he was “very happy” with Trump’s progress, while Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told The Associated Press that the president’s vital signs were “very concerning” and that he “was not a clear path to recovery.”

As Trump briefly left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Sunday for a ride in an SUV past supporters cheering him on, his doctors confirmed he was taking dexamethasone, an aggressive steroid the World Health Organization says should be prescribed only for “severe and critical” COVID-19 cases. Trump was “not yet out of the woods,” Conley said Monday, the same day the president painted an optimistic view of his condition, saying in remarks from the White House shortly after he arrived from the hospital: “Now I’m better, and maybe I’m immune, I don’t know.” 

‘Don’t be afraid of it:’: Donald Trump talks COVID-19 after return to White House

And what about Vice President Mike Pence? Should he be self-isolating considering that not only is he next in line to be president if Trump becomes incapacitated, but he attended a crowded ceremony at the White House on Sept. 26 to formally announce Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court? The Rose Garden event has come under suspicion as a possible vector of contagion for a cluster of infections that have affected at least 18 senior Republican Party operatives.

What’s more, Pence is due to debate California senator Kamala Harris in a vice presidential debate Wednesday evening in Salt Lake City. 

Mike Pence ramps up public appearances: Experts concerned

Also, why did the White House on Monday reject an offer by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal government’s acknowledged authority in contact tracing, to help lead the effort to track down and notify Americans who may have been exposed to the growing outbreak at the White House?

Trump outbreak: White House rebuffed CDC offer to lead contact tracing investigation

President Donald Trump gives two thumbs up from the Truman Balcony upon his return to the White House from Walter Reed Medical Center, where he underwent treatment for COVID-19. (Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM, AFP via Getty Images)

Thomas J. Bollyky, director of the global health program at the New York City-based Council on Foreign Relations think tank, noted in a post on Twitter that “Don’t be afraid of #Covid19. Don’t let it dominate your life” may not be “the obvious lesson to draw from a 3-day hospitalization of a U.S. President, an experimental drug having to be given to save him & an outbreak that has now engulfed WH staff + associates.”

But other voices defended Trump.

“If the president bounces back onto the campaign trail, he will be an invincible hero, who not only survived every dirty trick the Democrats threw at him, but the Chinese virus as well. He will show America we no longer have to be afraid,” wrote Miranda Devine in a column for the New York Post that was retweeted by the president. 

(As the coronavirus began to spread across the U.S., Trump repeatedly called it the “Chinese virus,” which many called racist and dangerous to Asian Americans.)

Trump has not been alone in criticizing China’s initial response to its coronavirus outbreak, in particular questioning whether Beijing’s attempt to quiet whistleblowing doctors in Wuhan allowed the disease to spread more rapidly in China and ultimately overseas. Beijing has also faced allegations that it has not been fully transparent over the origins of the virus and may have hidden early evidence of human-to-human transmission from World Health Organization scientists and other experts.

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Li Wenliang, a Chinese doctor who was reprimanded for warning fellow doctors about the initial coronavirus outbreak, has died of the illness.

USA TODAY

Chuang Yin-ching, a senior official in Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control who said he believes he was the first foreign scientist to visit Wuhan in the days after the outbreak, told USA TODAY in an interview earlier this year that he was not allowed to visit any hospitals or observe patients for evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus. He said he was also not provided with any key data about the unfolding pandemic. 

“That’s generally not what epidemiologists expect when studying a disease,” he said.  

The Trump administration has also accused Beijing of providing false information about the pandemic to WHO. The White House is not alone in expressing concerns about how WHO responded to information about the virus given to it by China, as well as problems with the international public health organization’s inefficient working culture more generally, but there is little evidence as Trump officials have repeatedly alleged in public statements and interviews that WHO was a “willing partner in withholding from the U.S. and wider world vital information about the coronavirus.” 

Analysis: Trump halts funding to WHO. Experts say we need it now more than ever

Trump has stood by a debunked theory that undercuts his own intelligence agencies suggesting there’s evidence the coronavirus originated in a Chinese laboratory. Researchers do not believe COVID-19 was man-made and point toward animals – likely bats – in nature as the origins of the virus. Viruses that spread from animals to humans, or zoonotic diseases, are not uncommon (avian flu, hantavirus, the plague). Scientists believe the new coronavirus transferred from animals to humans but have not yet been able to establish exactly when, where or how. It’s an uncertainty that Trump and others have blamed on China’s obfuscation. 

The White House has stressed that Trump and others in his orbit had regular coronavirus screening. However, recommended coronavirus prevention measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing have not always been adhered to, as Trump’s many public appearances at political rallies and his comments at odds with the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, testify.

In fact, the Trump administration has downplayed the severity of the coronavirus pandemic for months, more or less equal to the time it has accused China of stonewalling over it. 

ROSE GARDEN EVENT: Who wasn’t wearing a mask, who has COVID

At Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination event in the Rose Garden. People without masks are in red. People circled are now positive for COVID-19. (Photo: Javier Zarracina)

Fauci: Trump downplaying COVID-19 threat ‘not a good thing’; expect no ‘normality’

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