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Ex-White House official says Trump showed ‘flagrant lack of regard for public health’ in keeping positive Covid test secret

By Devan Cole, CNN

Former President Donald Trump showed “a flagrant lack of regard for public health” and endangered White House staff by not disclosing a positive Covid-19 test he received last year, his former communications director said Wednesday.

“Full stop, this demonstrates a flagrant lack of regard for public health and for the well-being of others,” Alyssa Farah Griffin, who served for a time as the director of strategic communications and assistant to the president in the Trump White House, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead.”

She added: “At this time in the White House, I had staffers who were pregnant. I had one who is a multi-time cancer survivor. We had plenty of people in the West Wing who are over 65. We could have killed one of our colleagues and instead they decided to not tell anyone, putting every single one of us at risk.”

The previously unknown positive test was disclosed in a memoir by Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows, a copy of which was obtained by The Guardian ahead of the book’s publication next week. According to Meadows, Trump received the positive test on September 26, 2020, three days ahead of his first presidential debate with Joe Biden. The then-President also received a negative test in that timeframe.

The day of the reported positive test, Trump hosted a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden for then-Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, which was later deemed a super spreader event, by medical experts. At least 12 people who attended the event later tested positive.

Farah Grffin, who was serving in the White House at the time, told Tapper that she had not been aware of the positive test detailed by Meadows.

Trump denied that positive test in a statement Wednesday, saying, “The story of me having COVID prior to, or during, the first debate is Fake News. In fact, a test revealed that I did not have COVID prior to the debate.”

Meadows claims in his book that the positive test was done with an old model kit, The Guardian reported.

Trump was subsequently tested with “the Binax system,” an antigen test for Covid-19, and returned a negative result, Meadows wrote. It is unclear if the first test that returned the positive result was an antigen test or PCR test.

According to the FDA’s guidelines, when using the Binax test, “negative results do not rule out SARS-Covid-2 infection and should not be used as the sole basis for treatment or patient management decisions, including infection control decision.”

Farah Grffin, who has on occasion criticized her former boss since leaving the White House, also took aim at Meadows on Wednesday, calling out his decision to just now reveal the positive Covid test.

“He doesn’t seem to have reflected on the fact this was a terrible move in how to handle this and he absolutely should have disclosed to the public and quarantined the President,” she said, adding Meadows’ decision “was deeply reckless.”

During the debate, Trump and Biden adhered to social distance protocols, but the two candidates — both in their 70s — were indoors in a room with dozens of people in the audience, some of whom were not masked.

Trump on September 30 traveled to Minnesota for an outdoor rally in Duluth and a private fundraiser in Minneapolis.

He announced on October 2, 2020, that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for Covid-19. He was hospitalized later that night.

This story has been updated with additional details Wednesday.

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