New COVID-19 cases that include President Donald Trump and some top military leaders have put a spotlight on a Sept. 27 White House event honoring families of fallen troops, where brass were in attendance and masking and distancing protocols were casual. But the organization that sent families of the fallen to the event as a sponsor says no Gold Star attendees have contracted the virus.
In a statement provided to Military.com, Timothy Davis, president and CEO of the Greatest Generations Foundation, said the organization was notified Oct. 1 that Trump had tested positive for the contagious virus, and all Gold Star family attendees were notified the next day.
“Considering it has been 12 days since the event, all Gold Star Family [members] are all doing well and exhibit no symptoms of COVID-19,” Davis said in the statement. “The Greatest Generations Foundation is in daily contact with the Gold Star Families and provides a daily update to the White House Office of Public Liaison on the health and wellness of our Gold Star Family attendees.”
McClatchy was first to report on the organization’s statement Thursday.
It came after Trump made remarks in a Fox Business interview Thursday morning that seemed to suggest attendees at the event had made him sick.
“They’re telling the story of their son who just died, or daughter, or husband, who just died in a war, or recently died, mostly over the last 10, 12 years, and I can’t just back up and say, ‘Give me room, I want room, give me 12 feet, stay 12 feet away,'” Trump said. “They come within an inch of my face sometimes. They want to hug me, and they want to kiss me. And they do. And frankly, I’m not telling them to back up; I’m not doing it. But I did say it’s obviously dangerous; it’s a dangerous thing.”
Davis declined to respond directly to Trump’s remarks, but noted that all event attendees had been tested by the White House’s medical team prior to entering, and all received negative results.
Trump tweeted around 1 a.m. Oct. 2 that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for COVID-19. While awaiting final results of those tests, Trump again pointed to the military community as reason for possible transmission, saying it’s tough when troops or law enforcement personnel “come over to you and they want to hug you and they want to kiss you because we really have done a good job for them.”
“You get close and things happen,” he told Fox News.
To date, 34 White House staffers and officials have contracted the virus, with the outbreak appearing to possibly be tied to a Sept. 26 event there, the presentation of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett in the Rose Garden.
The Sept. 27 White House event was heavily attended by military leaders including Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley, and the top generals of each service branch.
After the Coast Guard announced Tuesday that Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray had tested positive for COVID-19, the Pentagon said that “all potential close contacts,” including many of the top generals, were in precautionary self-quarantine.
Those observing quarantine include Milley; Vice Chairman Gen. John Hyten; Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday; Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville; Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown; Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond; Chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Daniel Hokanson; Gen. Paul Nakasone, the head of U.S. Cyber Command; and Marine Corps Assistant Commandant Gen. Gary Thomas.
On Wednesday, Thomas became the second four-star officer to contract the virus.
In addition to the Gold Star event, many of the military officials had been in meetings at the Pentagon together.
The New York Times reported Monday that the White House has no plans to conduct contact-tracing for events that took place prior to Sept. 28.
— Gina Harkins contributed to this report.
— Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.