President Trump was being treated in the hospital for COVID-19 on Saturday, and at least nine of his party’s top officials had contracted the virus—but it made no difference to many GOP officials and campaign aides who continued to flout social distancing guidelines and host maskless, indoor events.
On Saturday, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who tested positive for COVID-19 late Friday night, doubled down on his criticism of mask mandates. While they may help mitigate infection risk, he claimed, they are “certainly not a cure-all.” Instead, Johnson pointed to “individual responsibility.”
After his test on Friday night, Johnson said he didn’t self-isolate, claiming there was “no reason to do so.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention feel differently—they recommend that patients “self-quarantine/isolate at home pending test results.”
Attorney General William Barr also chose not to quarantine, despite recently coming into contact with several Trumpworld figures who tested positive for the virus, the Department of Justice told CNN Saturday. The CDC recommends those exposed to COVID-19 self-isolate for 14 days.
Barr sat in the front row in the White House Rose Garden last week, when Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court in an event that now appears to be a superspreader. Eight attendees have since tested positive for the virus, including Kellyanne Conway and Chris Christie, who were sitting near Barr.
Not long after the event, Barr traveled to Oklahoma and then returned to Washington. Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec defended the decision, citing Barr’s negative test result.
Trump made a similar call too, having attended a New Jersey fundraiser Thursday night—after he was informed that top aide Hope Hicks had tested positive for the virus. And in the wake of Trump’s hospitalization, a White House official told the Associated Press that masks would remain “a personal choice” on the premises and there were no plans to amend the testing system going forward.
Trump campaign officials have taken the same approach. On Saturday morning—barely 24 hours after the president tweeted his diagnosis—Trump campaign spokesperson Marc Lotter tweeted photos from an indoor campaign event in Sioux City, Iowa, attended by Gov. Kim Reynolds and Rep. Matt Whitaker. In the photos, the two officials stand together in a tight office, shrouded by several dozen attendees, nearly all of whom went without masks.
Later that afternoon—just after a White House official told reporters the president’s vitals had been “very concerning” and he wasn’t out of the woods—the Trump campaign’s Deputy Director of Rapid Response Jake Scheider shared a video on Twitter of a sprawling rally. Hundreds of supporters, more than half without masks, pressed up against a fence to wish the president well.
Details also trickled out Saturday about Republican lawmakers opting to fly commercial on Friday after potentially being exposed to COVID-19 while flying on Air Force One with Trump on Wednesday. Minnesota Reps. Pete Stauber, Tom Emmer, and Jim Hagedorn all boarded a Delta Air Lines commercial flight Friday, according to the Star Tribune. Hagedorn said he and the two other congressmen had been cleared to fly by the attending physician of the U.S. Congress.
Meanwhile in Florida, Republican House candidate Kat Cammack hosted a canvassing event for Trump Victory, the RNC-funded Super PAC dedicated to Trump’s re-election. In a video shared on Twitter, a crowd of maskless canvassers enveloped Cammack in a local campaign headquarters decorated in Trump merch.
“Hey, President Trump, Kat Cammack here,” the candidate said. “I’m in Marion County, Florida. And we’re getting ready to knock doors and make sure that Florida turns out red for you. We just want to wish you and the first lady a swift recovery. We’ve got your back. Get well soon. Right guys?”
When Cammack finished, the crowd around her erupted into cheers. The event was called: “Super Saturday.”
While the Trump campaign canceled all upcoming events involving the president and his family, Trump Victory held several canvassing events and rallies over the weekend. At the Trump Victory office in New Mexico, a group of maskless volunteers boasted of knocking on “10,000 doors in four hours” in a Facebook post from Saturday morning. In Iowa, a group gathered at the West Des Moines Trump Victory office for an indoor breakfast event, where none wore masks.
In Craven County, North Carolina, the regional Trump Victory outlet held “Trumptoberfest,” an outdoor rally where social distancing and mask compliance were spotty at best. The nearby office for the towns of Hubert and Swansboro held a caravan rally, where unmasked attendees packed in for group photos.
It remains to be seen whether other members of Trump’s inner circle will comply with isolation recommendations in the coming week. Vice President Mike Pence, who has taken over some of Trump’s appearances during his hospitalization, is scheduled to speak at a campaign rally in Arizona on Thursday.
The Trump campaign was contacted for comment on Saturday. Trump Victory couldn’t be reached for comment.