On Monday, Donald Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien tested positive for COVID-19. O’Brien is the highest ranking Trump official to contract the disease, but is hardly the first person in Trump’s sphere. One of the president’s personal valets tested positive back in May, as did Vice President Mike Pence’s communications director. Several Trump campaign staffers and Secret Service members tested positive ahead of his June campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., and Kimberly Guilfoyle—Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend and “top [Trump] campaign fundraising official”—tested positive before the president’s July 4th speech at Mount Rushmore.
At this point, it’s fair to wonder: how has Trump not gotten COVID-19?
We’ve known about Trump’s comically unhealthy dietary and exercise habits for years. We’ve watched and listened to his vocal resistance to wearing masks, social distancing, and not holding in-person rallies attended by several thousand people. We’ve also seen equally ignorant world leaders contract the virus, as well as two major city mayors—none of whom, save Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, have expressed less respect for the virus than the president himself. Trump has attempted in recent days to “change” his tone regarding the virus—scoring him heaps of unearned media praise—but still takes to Twitter to actively spread misinformation and discredit America’s top infectious disease expert. And his Tulsa rally was almost certainly the genesis of that area’s recent outbreak, but the president has hardly answered a question about it.
The president, according to his press secretary, is sometimes tested “multiple times a day” for COVID-19. According to Trump himself, it’s every other day or every few days. Either way, the president’s frequent testing would seem to poke a hole in his “higher rates due to more testing” narrative, as well as his repeated efforts to cut federal funding for testing sites. But it also underscores his apparent lack of fear of the virus. One could easily argue that administration officials are forcing, or at the very least insisting, that Trump get tested. More likely, however, is that Trump, a noted germaphobe, demands the tests himself and oscillates between sheer terror about being infected and baseless confidence about his personal immunity. He doesn’t think the virus can affect him because it hasn’t, even as people closer and closer to his direct orbit have fallen ill. His stubborn resistance to the virus’ potency, both as a disease and as a concept, leave him startlingly unequipped, even with access to the most robust testing and best healthcare in America.
Trump catching COVID-19 would be an enormous deal. His age, physical stature, and self-perceived god status make him an extremely vulnerable target. A positive test would fly in the face of every sympathetic media pundit and politician who has downplayed COVID-19’s seriousness and written it off as a left wing hoax. Or it might empower the anti-science conservative brigade to convince themselves that liberals—or worse yet, China—infected their dear leader directly. Illness tends to humble people. In Trump’s case, however, it would almost certainly inflame. There are protocols in place to deal with presidential illness, but as with everything else with the Trump administration, how it would actually play out remains an open question.