This election season poses significant challenges for our leading candidates for president, all in their 70s, who want to keep campaigning while coronavirus spreads nationwide.
All three men, born in the 1940s, are at risk of exposure because they interact with so many people, attend several campaign events and perform public duties. In January 2021, one of them is likely to become the oldest president to be inaugurated in American history.
Incumbent President Donald Trump has come under the most scrutiny from the media, even though he is the youngest and spriest of the bunch at 73.
Former Vice President Joe Biden the front runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, is 77 and observers have questioned his mental acuity after numerous gaffes and misstatements. His closest rival, Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, 78, suffered a heart attack while campaigning last year.
Many of our political figures and lawmakers are elderly and the CDC deems them to be at the most risk for catching the virus, based on reports from medical officials in hot zones like China and Italy.
Statistics from Wuhan China, where the coronavirus originated, are grim for seniors, who are 10 times more likely to die of the disease than younger victims, especially if they already have an underlying health condition like heart disease or diabetes.
Trump is under fire after speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) where one of the attendees was diagnosed with the coronavirus. The White House said there was no indication that either the president or Vice President Mike Pence, who also spoke at CPAC, had met or been in “close proximity” to the infected attendee.
White House spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham said Trump has not taken a COVID-19 test because he did not have prolonged, close contact with any patients. She also said that he has no symptoms, but will be closely monitored by his physician.
North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows, his incoming White House chief of staff, is self-quarantining “out of an abundance of caution” over the next two weeks after coming into contact with the attendee. His office confirmed that he has tested negative for COVID-19 and has no symptoms.
Other Republican lawmakers who were in contact with the individual, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Reps. Doug Collins of Georgia and Matt Gaetz of Florida, are also self-quarantining, even though none are experiencing any symptoms.
Cruz said he was feeling great but took the decision “out of an abundance of caution and to give everyone peace of mind, not because it was medically recommended.”
Gaetz was riding on Air Force One last week when he learned he was in proximity to the CPAC attendee. He sat by himself in a section of the president’s plane but told the Washington Post that by the end of the flight, Trump “coaxed” him to the front of the plane. He also said Trump didn’t seem “hyper-cautious about being in the same space that I was in.”
Washington state is the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, due largely to community transmission. In the shadows of the Capitol more deaths have been recorded from the disease than any other state, with 167 confirmed cases and 22 deaths as of Tuesday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University data. At least 19 fatalities are related to a retirement facility, Life Care Center of Kirkland, according to county government statistics.
Last week the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised older Americans and those with health problems to “stay home as much as possible.” The CDC has also stated older adults are “at higher risk” of serious health repercussions if they’re infected with COVID-19.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte proved just how challenging it is to guide the public during this health crisis on Monday night when he called on citizens of the Netherlands to stop shaking hands to prevent spreading the virus.
“From this moment on, we stop shaking hands,” he said. “You can do a foot kiss, bump elbows, whatever you want.”
He then shook hands with Jaap van Dissel of the public health institute, who reminded him of his own warning.
“Sorry, sorry, we can’t do that anymore! Do it again!” Rutte said while he bumped elbows with van Dissel.