In case you haven’t heard, the president has COVID-19.
President Donald Trump and the first lady both tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday, just a day after his cold and rainy rally of 3,000-plus people in Duluth. Several attendees interviewed by the New York Times expressed confidence that they were safe in the crowd, but some present that day—including some Minnesota Republicans—have been self-quarantining and taking precautions.
Three U.S. reps from Minnesota in particular have reason to think carefully about their movements directly before and after the rally. Republican Congressmen Pete Stauber, Tom Emmer, and Jim Hagedorn all traveled with Trump to and from the rally on Air Force One.
On his reelection campaign Facebook page, Hagedorn says the three of them “enjoyed the opportunity to discuss mining, manufacturing, and agricultural issues with the president,” and it was an “honor” to spend the day with Trump, his colleagues, and U.S. Senate candidate Jason Lewis.
It was quite an honor spending yesterday with President Trump and my colleagues Tom Emmer and Pete Stauber, as well as...Posted by Jim Hagedorn on Thursday, October 1, 2020
The three congressmen also came home from Washington, D.C. on a Delta flight Friday night—one day after the president tested positive.
According to state and national health agencies, anyone knowingly exposed to someone with COVID-19 is supposed to self-quarantine for 14 days before traveling, even if an initial test comes up negative. It can take up to two weeks for symptoms to appear, if they appear at all.
In an email to the Star Tribune on Friday night, Delta spokesperson Gina Laughlin detailed the airline’s cleaning, social distancing, and mask-wearing policies, and said the plane was less than 40 percent full.
“We also require customers to acknowledge that they are healthy to fly during check-in and have additional protocols in place for added screening,” she said. There was allegedly a “conversation with passengers” about the congressmen’s presence, after which point nobody got off the aircraft in protest.
But an anonymous traveler from Washington, D.C. told the Tribune there had been no such conversation, and that if he and his fiancée had been given the option to get off the plane, they would have.
Meanwhile, another Delta spokesperson, Anthony Black, told the Associated Press on Saturday that he didn’t know exactly what the passengers were or weren’t told about the situation, but confirmed the aircraft was held for about an hour and a half before it was cleared to fly. Delta, he said, was still reviewing the matter to see if it was handled properly.
All three congressmen (and Delta) have been catching heat for this already. Laura Cederberg, a former aide to former Gov. Mark Dayton, tweeted on Saturday that she was on the plane, and wasn’t exactly impressed.
“I saw Stauber,” she said. “Had no idea the other 2 were on board. How was it the passengers[‘] role to know who all is on flight? …Delta did and let them ignore these policies. Shame on Delta.”
I was on this flight last night. We were held for 1 hour 20 min at gate- first told there was an issue with plane, then told they were connecting w/ Atlanta medical director to ensure all passengers were safe to fly. 1/2 https://t.co/S40Qt07JEu— Laura Cederberg (@lacederberg) October 4, 2020
DFL Party chair Ken Martin said Friday the congressmen were guilty of “deliberately [putting] the health and safety of their fellow passengers at serious risk.”
The Republicans all sent out separate statements over the weekend saying they’d been cleared by Congress’s attending physician before the flight. Hagedorn has been repeatedly sounding off on his Facebook page, claiming he and his colleagues did everything by the book.
“This article his fake,” he said of the Star Tribune report. He claimed that he, Emmer, and Stauber were never in “close contact” with Trump (that is, within six feet for 15 minutes), and that they’d tested negative before the flight.
“You see, one or two Democrats on our plane complained and tried to get us kicked off, which delayed takeoff by over an hour as Delta’s management in Atlanta considered the Democrats’ complaint,” he wrote. “Delta made the decision to fly based on the facts… Typical fake news media. Typical Democrats.”
More smears by the DFL and their media accomplices. This article is fake. According to CDC guidelines and Delta’s...Posted by Jim Hagedorn on Saturday, October 3, 2020
Neither Hagedorn nor Emmer responded to interview requests, but Stauber sent a statement saying he was “disappointed with the very public and clearly partisan shaming” being carried out by some of his Minnesota colleagues.
“We are all in this together,” he said. “Going forward, I would simply ask that these members [of Congress] refrain from spreading fear and stigmatizing people during a public health crisis. I take this virus seriously as should all Americans.”
On Friday, Trump had a “high fever” and two occasions when his blood oxygen levels dropped, according to his physicians. He received supplemental oxygen at the White House that same day, and a dose of the steroid dexamethasone on Saturday; he left Walter Reed on Monday night and returned to the White House, declaring himself effectively cured of the virus.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Health has advised anyone who attended the Duluth rally or associated events—let alone hung out with the president—to get tested right away.
“Anyone who was a direct contact of President Trump or known COVID-19 case needs to quarantine and should get tested,” a statement released Friday said. “It is important to understand that quarantine for 14 days is necessary regardless of test results.”
According to the department, 104,799 people in Minnesota had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Monday afternoon, and 2,083 had died.