Hugs, handshakes and few masks: Was this White House ceremony a ‘superspreader event’?

At least seven people who attended an event at the White House last week have tested positive for coronavirus – after attendees were seen hugging, fist-bumping and not wearing masks.

Guests sat in tightly-packed chairs which did not appear to be two metres apart, with some of those who have since tested positive sitting close together.

Donald Trump and his wife Melania announced on Friday they had contracted the virus and the president has now been moved to a military hospital for treatment.

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Senator gave hugs before positive test

The pair had been seen without masks at the Rose Garden event last Saturday where Mr Trump announced he would be nominating Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court pick.

Several other attendees at the event – former presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway, Senator Mike Lee, Senator Thom Tillis, Notre Dame University president John Jenkins, and an unnamed journalist – have also tested positive.

Hundreds of people were there, and some were seen hugging one another, after the president announced his nomination.

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Several top aides and close advisers also attended a small celebration in the Diplomatic Room of the White House afterwards.

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 26: Guests watch as U.S. President Donald Trump introduces 7th U.S. Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden at the White House September 26, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Image:Guests were seated close together, and few wore face masks

There is now speculation the ceremony could become a “superspreader” event, with fears more attendees and close contacts could test positive in the coming days.

The incubation period of the virus is between one to 14 days, although on average people will start to develop symptoms after five to six days.

On Friday, Ms Conway announced she had the virus and had “mild symptoms”.

Kellyanne Conway speaks to attorney general William Barr
Image:Kellyanne Conway next to Attorney General William Barr

At the event, she was pictured sat behind the first lady and in front of Mr Jenkins, who both tested positive.

Footage also shows her standing close to attorney general William Barr, while neither of them are wearing masks, and leaning in to whisper something to him.

Later, she shakes hands with another guest.

Who else close to the US president has tested positive for COVID-19?

Who else close to the US president has tested positive for COVID-19?

Video has also emerged of Mr Lee enthusiastically hugging other attendees and holding his mask in his hand.

Mr Jenkins, in an email to others at Notre Dame University announcing his positive test, admitted he had not worn a mask and shaken hands with a number of people in the Rose Garden.

He added that he had been tested before attending and was “told that it was safe to remove our masks”.

Meanwhile, Alex Azar – the country’s top health official – was seen at the event fist-bumping without a mask on, according to CNN.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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