Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

A growing coronavirus cluster rattled the nation’s capital today as fresh infections emptied the White House, sent top military officials into quarantine and left local health officials scrambling to trace contacts.

In the White House, residential staff wore protective gear after President Trump returned to the residence to convalesce with Covid-19. West Wing offices were largely deserted as a number of advisers and other officials stayed home.

The president continued to downplay the seriousness of the virus, even as Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with several of the Pentagon’s most senior uniformed leaders, went into quarantine after Adm. Charles Ray, the vice commandant of the Coast Guard, tested positive.

Congress’s attending physician has been working with the Washington, D.C., health department to trace the contacts of dozens of U.S. lawmakers, congressional aides and reporters. But the House of Representatives has no plans to move to mandatory Covid-19 testing for members and staff, citing concerns that the rapid tests used by the White House aren’t accurate.

The outbreaks at the White House and Capitol Hill underscore how difficult it is for Washington to get the virus under control when it has almost no control over the federal government — and when senior administration officials flout coronavirus restrictions and contact tracing procedures.

Case in point: the Sept. 26 reception in the White House Rose Garden for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, now thought to be a possible super-spreading event. It violated the city’s mandate on limiting the size of gatherings and requiring masks, but the White House, as federal property, is exempt. The White House refused to comply with the city’s request for help with contact tracing.

A case study on a teenage girl by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides yet more evidence that while adolescents may not get as sick from Covid-19 as adults, they can quickly spread the virus to others. Here’s how the outbreak happened.

  • A 13-year-old was exposed to the virus away from her home.

  • A rapid antigen test four days later came back negative.

  • She developed nasal congestions two days later, her only symptom.

  • The same day, she traveled with her family to a get-together with 20 relatives, then stayed with 14 of them in a large house for nearly a month.

  • No one in the house wore masks or practiced social distancing, and 12 of them eventually became infected with the virus. One was hospitalized and another was taken to an emergency room because of trouble breathing, but both recovered.

  • Six other relatives stopped by the house over two days, for about 13 hours total, but stayed outside and maintained social distance — although they didn’t wear masks. None of them became ill.

The study shows how children and adolescents can spark outbreaks within families, even when their symptoms are mild — and even, in some cases, where initial tests are negative.

It adds to evidence that teenagers are more likely to become infected and spread the virus than younger children. It also re-emphasizes the importance of health precautions, including avoiding indoor spaces where people are close together, backing up rapid antigen tests with more reliable PCR tests, and following 14-day isolation guidelines.

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York imposed new restrictions that closed nonessential businesses — including restaurants, bars and gyms — in certain portions of Brooklyn, Queens and New York City suburbs where the rate of new cases has been stubbornly high for the past few weeks.

  • More than 75 universities in Britain have reported coronavirus cases, including several outbreaks that are infecting nearby towns.

  • Senegal, which has received widespread praise for handling the pandemic, is going ahead with an annual religious festival that is expected to draw four million pilgrims to the holy city of Touba.

  • Countries in the European Union have again restricted residents’ movement to contain a second wave of the virus. Now they are confronting a lack of adherence to the new rules that the World Health Organization have attributed to “pandemic fatigue.”

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.

My friend and I are socially distanced. So what if he is so attractive? The upside is that I know he is not just interested in um … here in the Midwest we don’t talk about that at my age — 72. We rode bicycles for 9 miles on the Loveland Bike Trail. It was a beautiful fall Saturday afternoon, the leaves just starting to turn. We got back to the parking lot in time for an understated sunset. We drove home in the dark, in our own cars, socially distanced.

— Marjorie Isaacs, Cincinnati

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