A crowded Rose Garden ceremony last Saturday at which Donald Trump announced Amy Coney Barrett as his supreme court nominee has come under scrutiny after at least seven figures in attendance tested positive for coronavirus, including the president himself.
On Friday, the president’s former counsellor, Kellyanne Conway, announced she had tested positive and had “mild” symptoms.
Two Republican senators, Thom Tillis and Mike Lee, also announced they have also tested positive.
Lee, who did not wear a mask at the White House event, said he had “symptoms consistent with longtime allergies”. Tillis, who did wear a mask, said he has no symptoms. Both said they will quarantine for 10 days – ending just before Barrett’s confirmation hearings begin on 12 October.
Both senators serve on the Senate judiciary committee, raising questions about upcoming supreme court confirmation hearings and whether additional senators may have been exposed.
University of Notre Dame’s president, John Jenkins, was also later diagnosed with the disease.
And on Saturday it was revealed that Chris Christie, former New Jersey governor and an adviser to Trump, has tested positive for the disease.
Attorney general Bill Barr, who was seen at the White House event hobnobbing with Conway, will not quarantine, according to the Department of Justice, after testing negative on Friday.
Trump was hospitalized on Friday, with the White House saying that he would spend “a few days” at the Walter Reed national military medical center following his diagnosis.
Speculation is growing that the event, which took place on 25 September, could have been the source of Trump’s infection and possibly a super-spreader event, as confirmed cases rise. Barrett said Friday that she had not tested positive for the virus.
The event was Trump’s formal announcement that he was nominating Barrett to fill progressive champion Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the supreme court. Ginsburg, who died on 18 September, had made clear that her dying wish was that her seat on the court would not be filled “until a new president is installed”, and Democrats have argued her replacement should not be confirmed until after the 2020 election.
A visual guide produced by Politico demonstrated the growing number of Trump officials and allies who have tested positive for coronavirus since attending the ceremony. Many of those who have since announced they tested positive for the virus were seated close together.
As Huffington Post’s Igor Bobic noted, the chairs for the ceremony were not socially distanced.
And after the outdoor part of the event in the Rose Garden, guests progressed to indoor receptions inside the White House.
Conway tweeted Friday that she has a light cough and is feeling fine. “I have begun a quarantine process in consultation with physicians,” she added.
The White House Correspondent’s Association said that an unnamed journalist who attended the event also tested positive, according to ABC News.