ABC News Corona Virus Government. Response

Trump and key advisers didn't appear to succeed at social distancing amid coronavirus pandemic

CDC has discouraged the public from handshaking and high-fives.

Holding fundraisers.

Shaking hands.

Taking photographs.

All of these would have been a very normal part of life for any politician, except that President Donald Trump and members of his administration, including Vice President Mike Pence, did so amid the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States and despite advice from top public health officials to the contrary.

Over the last two weeks, as the coronavirus outbreak surged to more than 3,700 cases across the country, according to Johns Hopkins University, the president mostly carried on as usual in public, attending large gatherings both for his reelection effort and official business, shaking hands with numerous individuals, from supporters on a tarmac in Florida to businessmen from around the country who are working on responding to the virus.

Public health officials have repeatedly warned Americans in recent days not to shake hands, to maintain a distance from other people (generally 6 feet) and to avoid large gatherings of people.

The CDC began including the term "social distancing" as part of its guidance on ways to prevent community spread of the virus as early as Feb. 28, but President Trump and his administration continued on with normal practices as recently as this weekend. Even as the focus on social distancing among federal officials gradually grew stronger, with the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, repeatedly emphasizing the importance of “social distancing,” Trump appeared to fail to adhere to the practices his own administration was recommending.

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  • It was not until Monday that the White House started to implement substantial changes to its daily operation and take measures to have staff social distance, including turning to teleconferences.

    Amid the outbreak, Trump, who at 73 may be at a higher risk of having more severe disease from the virus due to his age, has been in the vicinity of at least three people who’ve tested positive for the virus along with several others who interacted with infected individuals over the last week. The president announced he had tested negative for the virus on Friday, though Vice President Pence has not yet been tested.

    Here is a breakdown of Trump's schedule and major COVID-19 milestones over the last few weeks:

    Thursday, Feb. 26: The CDC warns about potential community spread of the virus in the U.S. The first case of unknown origin (i.e. not travel-related) is announced that day.

    Saturday, Feb. 29, 3:30 p.m.: Trump speaks at CPAC in National Harbour:Trump said "we will do everything in our power to keep the virus and those carrying the infections from entering our country," during his remarks to a packed crowd at the annual CPAC conference-- though a person in attendance would letter test positive for the virus. Five members of Congress -- Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Doug Collins, Rep. Mark Meadows, Rep. Julia Brownley, and Rep. Louie Gohmert -- all quarantined after being alerted they may have come into contact with the positive attendee.

    Monday, March 2, 10:30 a.m.: Trump meets with the President of the Republic of Colombia:The two met and shook hands in the Oval Office.

    Monday, March 2, 4 p.m.: Pence leads a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting:The vice president led a meeting in a crowded Situation Room at the White House.

    Monday, March 2: President Trump holds campaign rally in Charlotte, NC—Bojangles' Coliseum:President Trump spoke at a campaign rally in North Carolina to a packed crowd of thousands of supporters. Three people who attended would go on to self-quarantine — Graham, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel and Rep. Mark Meadows. Graham recently tested negative for coronavirus on Sunday.

    Tuesday, March 3: Trump has a meeting on FISA reauthorization in the Oval Office:Trump is joined in the meeting by Attorney General Barr, Doug Collins, and Graham, among others -- the latter of whom both later announced they would quarantine for possible exposure to COVID-19. Collins announced he would quarantine 6 days after this meeting, after learning he had taken a photo with an infected person at CPAC.

    Tuesday, March 3: President Trump Meets with World War II veterans and their family members:Trump shook hands and posed for photos next to the elderly veterans, who are part of the population most at risk for the virus, according to the CDC.

    Wednesday, March 4, 1:50 p.m.: Trump delivers remarks at the Latino Coalition Legislative Summit:At the event, the president shook hands with Jovita Carranza, administrator of the Small Business Administration, and Miquel Guttierez of San Antonio and Raffael Quear, a local coalition member-- two members of the general public.

    Friday, March 6, 11 a.m.: Trump visits Tennessee to survey damage and show support after tornado:The same day the White House imposed new guest restrictions -- including a request that staff take into account Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travel advisories before bringing guests into the White House complex and a procedure by which guests must disclose the countries they’ve visited in the last 30 days, a White House official confirmed -- the president was on the ground in Tennessee in large crowds and shaking hands with members of the public.

    Friday, March 6: President Trump visits the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia:Trump was accompanied by and shook hands at close range with Rep. Doug Collins, R-Georgia, who announced just three days later he would be quarantining after he took a photo with the infected person at CPAC.

    Saturday, March 7: President Trump hosts Brazilian President Jair BolsonaroPresident Trump and members of the first family met and dined with Bolsonaro at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. Vice President Pence also made an unexpected stop at Mar-a-Lago ahead of the president’s meeting with the Brazilian president. Bolsonaro announced this Saturday he would be self-quarantining for a week while he awaits the results of his test, after four members of his delegation during the trip to meet Trump tested positive for COVID-19. At least one of the members of the delegation met Trump. Bolsonaro’s office confirmed the government had “informed the US government authorities of the event so that they can also take the necessary preventive measures.”

    “We’ll find out what happens, I guess they are being tested now," Trump said when asked about the event at the White House on Thursday, apparently unaware at the time that a Bolsonaro aide had tested positive. "Let’s put it this way I’m not concerned."

    Sunday, Mar. 8: Trump speaks at Trump Victory fundraiser:President Trump attended a high-dollar fundraiser brunch at the Mar-a-Lago Club in West Palm Beach. Days later on Friday, Mar. 13, the Trump Victory committee announced through an email that an unidentified donor tested positive after attending the event. According to the RNC, the donor did not interact with President Trump or any members of the first family.

    Sunday, March 8: Fauci stresses the important of social distancing, but stops short of saying it should immediately be mandatory:Fauci on multiple Sunday shows stressed the importance of social distancing, and avoidance of large gatherings. During a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing, Fauci said federal mandates are needed to enforce "certain types of social distancing," and said "I’m a bit humble about that," adding that "I would like to discuss it with a variety of other people who have more of a handle on the implications of that."

    Monday, March 9: Trump flies on Air Force One alongside Rep. Matt Gaetz:Gaetz, R-Florida, is informed by CPAC mid-flight that he had come in contact with a conference attendee who was infected. Once he landed, he then was immediately tested, according to a top aide to Gaetz. Gaetz also rode with the president in the presidential limo to Orlando airport. Gaetz self-quarantined, and announced on Tuesday he had tested negative for the virus.

    Monday, March 9: The Pentagon begins implementing "social distancing" measures in the building:The Pentagon began implementing its "social distancing" measures in the building-- which included CDC signs encouraging proper hand washing and distancing actions that can be take immediately. To show the importance of these measures, senior Pentagon leaders began changing some daily routines. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley also made a change to a routine meeting that is typically crammed wall-to-wall with people to standing room only. "We need to keep reinforcing that there's an individual responsibility to help with this," said Brig. Gen. Paul Friedrichs, Joint Staff Surgeon.

    Tuesday, Mar. 10, 1:30 p.m.: First lady Melania Trump attends PTA legislative conference:Melania Trump delivered remarks at the 2020 Parents and Teachers Association Legislative Conference and was seen shaking hands with people. One day earlier, the Trump campaign announced that it had canceled Melania's first 2020 fundraisers in Beverly Hills scheduled for March 18. Coronavirus was not mentioned as a reason for the cancellation, though-- press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the cancellation was due to a "scheduling conflict." She did not provide more details.

    Tuesday, Mar. 10, 4:30 p.m.: Trump presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Gen. Jack Keane:Trump conducted a ceremony that included touching and hand-shaking in front of a large crowd packed into the East Room in the White House. Other attendees at the event included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Attorney General William Barr and Graham.

    The same day, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham announced one of Trump’s upcoming trips would be cancelled out of concerns surrounding coronavirus-- for the first time. “Out of an abundance of caution from the Coronavirus outbreak,” Grisham said in the statement, “the President has decided to cancel his upcoming events in Colorado and Nevada.”

    Shortly thereafter, Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh announced a Catholics for Trump event in Milwaukee was also cancelled “out of an abundance of caution because of the coronavirus outbreak.”

    Thursday, March 12: Graham begins self-quarantine after attending the event with a Brazilian aide who was later discovered to have tested positive for COVID-19.

    Thursday, March 12, 10:50 a.m.: Trump participates in a meeting with the prime minister of Ireland:President Trump and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar opted to skip the handshake during their annual meeting -- instead greeting each other with a namaste gesture.

    The pair joked at the joint press conference about not doing a handshake: “We looked at each other and said, ‘What are we going to do?’” Trump said. “You know, it’s sort of a weird feeling.” And Varadkar replied, “It almost feels impersonal. It feels like you’re being rude. But we just can’t afford to think like that for the next few weeks.”

    However, both Mark Meadows - - who had just finished voluntary quarantine the day before-- and former acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney-- who is currently under voluntary quarantine "out of an abundance of caution due to his proximity to the President" after coming into contact with his niece who is awaiting test results, Grisham confirmed to ABC News on Monday-- accompanied Trump to the meeting.

    Thursday, March 12: CDC discourages handshakes, "high-fives” and “mass gathering”:CDC updated its COVID-19 guidance to discourage handshakes and high-fives, saying they can be ways in which COVID-19 can be transmitted from person to person. The CDC also recommended postponing or cancelling “mass gathering,” including events with more than 250 attendees, and to consider the density of attendees within a confined area, adding that the virus spreads from person-to-person happens most frequently among close contacts within 6 feet.

    Friday, March 13, 3 p.m.: Trump declares national emergency during news conference:One day after the CDC updated its COVID-19 guidance to discourage handshakes, President Trump shook hands with several business executives from Target, Walmart, Walgreens, and other companies-- all while declaring a national emergency over the COVID-19 outbreak at a press conference from the White House Rose Garden. One executive, LHC Group’s Bruce Greenstein, declined a handshake and instead gave the president an elbow bump.

    Saturday, March 14: President Trump tweets, "SOCIAL DISTANCING!"

    Saturday, March 14: Pence leads White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting and press conference:The vice president on Saturday morning led the daily closed-door meeting with the White House Coronavirus Task Force-- and the room was packed. President Donald Trump that afternoon tweeted a photo of himself attending the meeting.

    Sunday, March 15: Fauci says he is “working on” getting Trump to do social distancing:On ABC News' "This Week" last Sunday, Fauci said "I'm practicing as much social distancing as I possibly can" as a personal measure to protect himself, adding that he was also trying to get the president to adopt similar measures that could help to slow the spread of the virus. "I'm working on getting the boss to do this," Fauci said of social distancing. "I may not be successful, but we're working on it."

    Sunday, Marc 15: CDC recommends cancelling or postponing of large events and mass gatherings:CDC recommended organizers to cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States for the next eight weeks. Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies. These events can be planned not only by organizations and communities but also by individuals.

    Monday, March 16: The White House is starting to make changes to its daily operation and take measures to have staff social distance:Federal workers are urged to work from home -- with "maximum teleworking." President Trump is participating in two video-teleconferences on coronavirus (one with G7 leaders and another with US governors), and VP Pence this past weekend urged White House staff to wash hands, practice social distancing, avoid physical contact, clean and disinfect, and "Stay home if you’re sick!" New measures have been imposed to implement social distancing during press briefings, such as reporters sitting in every other chair, and a request from the White House Correspondents Association that anyone who does not have an assigned seat should not attend briefings.