News of President Trump’s diagnosis spread quickly through the medical community Friday, and experts weighed in with at least two key concerns: The president’s age puts him at higher risk of complications, and his proximity to others means there are many more people to test.
Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, tweeted: “We also need to sort out who else has been infected.” He suggested that anyone who has been near Hope Hicks — a top Trump aide who traveled with the president this week and tested positive on Thursday — starting Monday and near Trump starting on Tuesday should quarantine.
“If someone was in an enclosed space with him or Ms Hicks during their contagious period and not wearing a mask, they are at risk,” Jha tweeted. “This is why I call this a nightmare.”
In an interview on “Good Morning America,” Jha also pointed to the president’s age, 74.
“The bottom line is his age alone puts him at high risk of complication,” Jha said. “So, I think we all pray that he recovers quickly but worry that he may be at risk.”
Former Food and Drug Administration head Scott Gottlieb echoed that concern in an interview with CNBC.
“The president is in a high-risk group simply by virtue of his age,” he said. “He’s also reported to be overweight. … There’s every reason now to expect that the president will do well and recover, and we are all wishing him well, but the risk is still high because of age alone.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released guidelines to describe who is at increased risk, noting that older adults are among those “more likely than others to become severely ill.”
“Among adults, the risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at higher risk,” the agency said. It noted that severe illness means a person with covid-19 “may require hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe, or they may even die.”
Individuals in their 60s and 70s are, for example, generally at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 50s.
The CDC says adults older than the president are at highest risk. “The greatest risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is among those aged 85 or older,” according to the agency.
Gottlieb framed the “critical question” now: “Is the president, or Melania, or Hope, or other White House staff who may have been exposed, symptomatic? That would give us a lot more information about the risks they face.”
Former CDC director Tom Frieden said every new covid-19 infection is a “step backwards in our effort to slow” the ongoing pandemic.
Vin Gupta, a pulmonologist at the University of Washington, called on the White House to be transparent about the details of the president’s illness.
“I think it’s important that they overshare information. I want to know what’s his symptom profile,” Gupta said in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show. “How is the first lady feeling? And critically, what is Hope Hicks feeling like? Because if she was a high-risk exposure because she’s very symptomatic at a young age, then that’s concerning.”
In that case, Gupta suggested, everybody on Air Force One or who came in contact with them should quarantine for two weeks, per CDC guidelines.