Wisconsin health officials hope the president’s diagnosis leads to more mask usage, even as GOP presses court challenge to mask mandate.
Wisconsin public health officials said they hope more state residents start wearing face masks after learning Friday that President Donald Trump, who repeatedly has dismissed the seriousness of coronavirus and flouted efforts to slow its spread, tested positive for the contagious virus.
Trump announced via Twitter that he and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19 just one month before the Nov. 3 presidential election in which he squares off against his Democratic opponent Joe Biden.
The president late Friday afternoon planned to travel to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where he would remain for a few days, reported the New York Times. He reportedly has a low-grade fever and a cough, the report said.
His planned Wisconsin campaign trips Saturday to Janesville and Green Bay have been cancelled.
The announcement comes on the same day that Wisconsin recorded another 2,745 new COVID-19 cases, the third-highest single-day total, and 97 new hospitalizations related to the virus. Since March, 127,906 cases of the virus have been reported in the state, and 1,353 people have died.
During the past week more than 17,000 people in Wisconsin tested positive. The number of COVID- 19 patients is rising rapidly and threatens to overwhelm hospital capacity in some parts of the state.
“It is more important now than ever to avoid large crowds, especially here in Green Bay, where we are seeing some of the most rapid spread of COVID-19 in the United States, and where COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise,” said Ken Nelson, chief nursing officer at HSHS St. Vincent Hospital and HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital Medical Center. “Any event, whether it be a political rally, wedding or any other kind of large gathering, could have dire consequences for a community already in crisis.”
Trump has rarely worn a mask in public since the coronavirus pandemic began earlier this year. He repeatedly has downplayed the severity of the pandemic and often has contradicted public health experts and members of his administration.
Many people in Wisconsin have followed the president’s lead, public health officials told UpNorthNews, by failing to wear face masks and to refrain from gatherings at such locations as weddings and taverns. The reluctance of many to wear masks and keep from gathering has prompted spikes of the virus across the state, they said, and is overwhelming their ability to track and contain the illness.
Health officers said they hope Trump’s being infected with coronavirus shows everyone is susceptible to it. People have to pay attention to public health recommendations that people wear face masks in public, keep socially distant, don’t attend large gatherings and wash hands frequently, they said.
In addition to the importance of wearing a mask, staying home as much as possible also will help slow the spread of the virus, health officers said.
“I hope people will understand that this virus is capable of infecting anyone,” Judy Burrows, public information officer for the Marathon County Health Department, said when asked what message she hopes Trump’s getting the virus sends to Wisconsin residents.
Health officers across Wisconsin said their staffs have been overwhelmed in recent weeks trying to keep up with spiking COVID-19 cases and can’t keep up with testing and tracking of the disease to slow its spread.
Also on Friday, as COVID-19 cases continue to climb, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos filed a brief on behalf of the state Legislature supporting a lawsuit against Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide mask mandate. The lawsuit was brought by the conservative legal firm Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty that argues the governor exceeded his authority by issuing a new public health order during the same pandemic.
Since then the Legislature has not met to devise new regulations regarding COVID-19, prompting criticism from Democrats. Republicans said Evers hasn’t managed the pandemic well and have called the state Department of Health Services safer-at-home order and Evers’ subsequent mask mandate government overreaches that hurt the economy.