IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Why the date of Trump's first positive Covid test matters

Trump didn't just fail to deal responsibly with the national public health crisis, he also failed to deal responsibly with his own personal health crisis.


It was on Oct. 2, 2020, when the public first learned that Donald Trump had contracted Covid-19. Later that day, the then-president was hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center.

It was entirely unclear, however, even at the time, exactly when the Republican tested positive for the virus. According to a new report in The Guardian, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wrote in his new book that Trump first tested positive on Sept. 26 — three days before his first presidential debate against Joe Biden.

Mark Meadows also writes that though he knew each candidate was required "to test negative for the virus within seventy two hours of the start time ... Nothing was going to stop [Trump] from going out there." ... The public, however, was not told of the president's tests.

Before digging in on this, let's note a few things. Right off the bat, I should mention that The Guardian's report on Meadows' as-yet-unreleased book has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News. That said, The New York Times ran a related report this morning, quoting two former officials who also said the then-president first tested positive on Sept. 26.

What's more, according to Meadows' telling, Trump tested negative shortly after testing positive. At that point, the then-president almost certainly should've taken a PCR test. That apparently didn't happen.

Let's also note that the former president denied the accuracy of the story this morning. That said, Trump lies uncontrollably, and he's denied plenty of claims that proved to be true.

Having said all of that, what's the significance of the new revelations, assuming they're true?

It's extraordinary to realize just how many people Trump knowingly put at serious risk at the first 2020 presidential debate, including his own staff, his own Secret Service detail, and the man who would soon succeed him in the Oval Office.

The Guardian report added that Fox News' Chris Wallace, who moderated the event, "later said Trump was not tested before the debate because he arrived late. Organizers, Wallace said, relied on the honor system."

Those counting on Donald Trump to be honorable are almost always going to be disappointed.

They're not the only ones the Republican put at risk. The evening after the apparent positive test, Trump headlined a campaign rally in Pennsylvania. The next day, he also met with military families at the White House. The then-president actually complained last fall that the grieving Gold Star families got too close to him — he effectively accused them of infecting him — but it now appears Trump endangered them, not the other way around.

Indeed, the list of people he put at risk just keeps growing.

Finally, there was also something odd last fall about the timeline. Trump acknowledged the infection the morning of Oct. 2, only to be hospitalized that afternoon? I won't pretend to be an epidemiologist, but for most people, a patient's condition doesn't deteriorate nearly that quickly.

If, however, Trump first tested positive on Sept. 26, then he was hospitalized six days later, which makes far more sense.

As for the bigger picture, at the risk of making a reductive observation, these revelations suggest that the former president didn't just fail spectacularly to deal responsibly with the national public health crisis, he also failed to deal responsibly with his own personal health crisis.