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Trump spokesman repeatedly dodges questions on last negative coronavirus test

The Hill logo The Hill 10/9/2020 Morgan Chalfant
a man wearing a suit and tie: Trump spokesman repeatedly dodges questions on last negative coronavirus test © Getty Images Trump spokesman repeatedly dodges questions on last negative coronavirus test

White House deputy communications director Brian Morgenstern repeatedly declined to answer questions about the date of President Trump's last negative coronavirus test in a contentious interview with MSNBC on Friday.

In an interview with host Hallie Jackson, Morgenstern claimed that the White House has not divulged the date of Trump's last negative test because it is not valuable public health information.

Morgenstern, who said he did not personally know the date in question, also at one point claimed that Trump's rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prevented the White House from releasing the information.

"The president doesn't check all of his HIPAA rights at the door just when he becomes president," Morgenstern said. "The doctors obviously share fulsome information with the president. The president shares a great deal of information with the American public."

"There is a reason to share certain information. It is to prevent further transmission of the virus, it's public health purposes, and that's what we're doing," he added.

The White House has indicated that it will share the results of Trump's next coronavirus test, which he is expected to take on Friday, before he returns to public events. Asked by Jackson what was different between sharing that information and sharing the president's last negative test, Morgenstern insisted the White House has been "extremely transparent."

"It is not something that has the public health value that the other information releasing does," he later added of details about the president's last negative test.

Public health experts say that it is important to know Trump's last negative test in order to determine whether Trump was contagious during his week of travel prior to his coronavirus diagnosis. Trump traveled to the first presidential debate in Cleveland, held a campaign rally in Minnesota and participated in a fundraiser at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., in the days leading up to his announcement a week ago that he had tested positive.

The information could help identify individuals who may have been exposed to the virus before Trump's positive test.

White House officials and Trump's physician have repeatedly refused to divulge the date of Trump's last negative test over the course of the past week, saying only that Trump has been tested regularly for the virus.

Trump is known to have experienced symptoms for COVID-19 beginning last Friday, when he had a high fever and was given supplemental oxygen after a drop in his oxygen level. He was transported to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center that day and received treatment there for 72 hours.

White House physician Sean Conley issued a memo on Thursday evening saying that Trump would be able to make a "safe return" to public events by Saturday.

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