Joe Biden's test came back negative. Could it be too early, though, for the test to be definitive?
The answer is yes. So it will be important that he has follow-up tests. It takes a few days of incubation period for the virus to replicate enough in order to have a positive test. So if the vice president's exposure was through the debate, having a negative test today is certainly more reassuring than a positive test, but he would not be out of the woods. You'd want to see tests for another several days.
Biden's risk should be extremely low. First of all, he's been extraordinarily careful for the entire time. In terms of the debate itself, I didn't see a measurement, but it looked like he was standing 15 to 20 feet away, which is generally, although not 100%, a safe distance.
What effect do you think this will have on the next planned debates? The next one, conducted in a town hall format, is scheduled for Oct. 15.
I think they'll pay more attention to the risk of the virus in any kind of public gathering, so I imagine the rules will be somewhat different in terms of additional spacing. And certainly everybody in the audience will wear masks.
You know, it's a little bit hard to say in terms of future presidential debates, because the president has symptoms now. In general, we say that two weeks after the onset of symptoms, you are no longer infectious, even if you are continuing to test positive.
In the beginning, we saw people with persistently positive viral tests for weeks and weeks and wondered if they were still infectious. And the evidence is really quite clear that a couple of weeks out, you're no longer infectious, even though you may still test positive because you have the virus.
But certainly for the next two weeks, the president needs to be in absolutely strict quarantine. It would be public health malpractice to do an in-person debate within a couple of weeks of someone developing the coronavirus.
In a study released this week, Cornell University researchers found that President Trump is "likely the largest driver" of COVID-19 misinformation. What has been the president's effect on public health?
We can feel sympathy for the person and still feel like this pandemic has been mishandled at a national level. And the source of much of that is the president; there's just no two ways about it.
It's very hard to look at his responses all the way through and see anything good about them. Really, under any estimate that I can come up, with that has cost tens of thousands of lives.
We look at San Francisco, which just had its 100th death last week from COVID. If the entire country had our death rate, we would have had 165,000 fewer deaths. In San Francisco, our bodies are exactly the same, and the virus is exactly the same. But in an area where there was good political leadership and where the people wore masks and paid attention to the science, that is the kind of difference that could have been made.
I believe that had there been presidential leadership, as I think we would have expected — coming out early saying this is serious, here's what you need to do, the kind of thing that he obviously knew about according to his discussions with Bob Woodward — I believe that we would have had tens of thousands if not 100,000 or more fewer deaths.
I try to be fair and say this would have been bad under anyone's watch. It would've been a major challenge to the system, and people would have died. But it didn't have to be like this and doesn't have to be like this.
You know, as people have mapped out and gamed out what a pandemic would look like over the last 20, 30, 40 years, there was no scenario in which the federal government would have become part of the problem, would have been the source of misinformation, would have shackled the main agency responsible for prevention and educating people about what to do. That was not on the list of things that we needed to worry about.
What effect do you think President Trump's contracting the virus will have on public health going forward?
If there's any good that comes out of this, it will be that people who did not take this seriously will take it more seriously. You know, if the president can get it, anybody can get it.
There sometimes is this feeling that we're out of the woods. It's just clearly not true. The virus hasn't changed in a material way over the course of eight or nine months, and neither have we. We are all susceptible.
What's remarkable is we know the things that one needs to do to lower your chance of contracting the coronavirus. And unfortunately, the president has doubled down on not doing those things. Obviously we wish him well. But there was a lot of foolish behavior that went into this.
A lot will hinge on how he does. If he has a mild case, he may feel a little bit crummy for a few days or a week or so and be back to normal. And you wonder what will come out of the politics of that if he recovers. There is also a decent chance that he will do poorly.
Can we say that this finally puts to rest the idea that hydroxychloroquine can indeed be a prophylactic? The president took it for weeks and swore by it.
What puts that idea to rest is the fact that there have been more than a dozen studies on that question. But no, I think it's hazardous to use single-case patient examples. That's part of what gets the president in trouble: He sees a case where the patient miraculously got better. And the next thing you know, he's touting it as a cure. That's why we need science. The fact that he may have been taking hydroxychloroquine and he still got sick is interesting, but to me not persuasive. What's persuasive is that it has been massively studied, and the evidence is quite clear that it does not work.