MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
We still don't know where President Trump contracted the coronavirus. Today Trump himself said he figured there would be a chance he might catch it because of the events he's continued to hold during the pandemic - events including a September 27 private reception for Gold Star mothers, the mothers of Americans killed at war. That event was the day after the now infamous Rose Garden reception for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Many of the Rose Garden attendees have since tested positive for the virus. NPR's Quil Lawrence covers veterans for us. He's here now.
QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.
KELLY: Tell me a little bit more about this Gold Star mothers event, why it's drawing so much attention now.
LAWRENCE: So every last Sunday in September is Gold Star Mother's Day. That's been around for about 80 years. But it's been highlighted recently by President Obama and President Trump with some White House receptions. President Trump talked about that event today, saying that he just hasn't put himself in a bubble despite the risks of the virus. And he said - this is what he said about when he meets those families who have lost (inaudible).
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: 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 like - you know, it's obviously dangerous. It's a dangerous thing, I guess, if you go by the COVID thing.
LAWRENCE: So the White House later attempted to clarify that the president wasn't blaming anyone present for him getting the virus. And we don't know if anyone became sick from that event, but some officials who were there later tested positive. And also at that event were senior officials, including Admiral Charles Ray, the vice commandant of the Coast Guard. Ray would test positive more than a week later. Pentagon officials say he may have been exposed - or he may have exposed members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the virus at Pentagon meetings. And now they're all in quarantine. So we know of at least one positive case out of those Pentagon meetings, which is four-star General Gary Thomas.
KELLY: Quil, what are the Gold Star families who were at this event - what are they saying? Have they reacted to those comments from the president about - you know, they want to get within an inch of me; they want to kiss me?
LAWRENCE: Well, I've reached out to a few of them, and I haven't heard back. About 20 Gold Star families were in attendance from all over the country. They got rapid COVID tests before entering the event. There's some controversy about how accurate those quick tests are, but they all tested negative. On Facebook, I've seen - been able to find a couple of families who were at the event, and they've posted - offering prayers for the president, first lady's recovery from COVID. One of those attendees said he'd gotten tested and was self-isolating out of caution.
KELLY: Now, it seems the White House is not doing contact tracing for everyone who was either at the Rose Garden event on Saturday or the Gold Star reception on Sunday. Why not?
LAWRENCE: That's right. The White House deputy press secretary, Brian Morgenstern, told us that they only trace patients diagnosed by the White House medical unit, and they follow a very specific guideline.
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BRIAN MORGENSTERN: They look back 48 hours to find people who may have been within six feet for at least 15 minutes. That's the CDC guideline. And the purpose is to mitigate further transmission of the virus. It's not to go back and identify patient zero.
LAWRENCE: And as to why they are holding indoor events with no masks, with families of fallen troops, some of whom are elderly, the president has said he needs to continue the business of government.
KELLY: All right. Quil Lawrence - he covers veterans for NPR. Thanks, Quil.
LAWRENCE: Thank you.
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