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I'm a Doctor and the White House Outbreak Should Be a Warning to Us All

If the person sitting next to you at Thanksgiving dinner is infected with COVID, you are probably next.

On Thursday night it was revealed that Hope Hicks, President Donald Trump's close aid, had tested positive for COVID-19. The following day, the White House confirmed that the President himself and First Lady Melania Trump — along with a host of others close to Trump and had spent time with him over the course of the last week including Kellyanne Conway, Ronna McDaniel, and Thom Tillis — were COVID positive as well.

According to Darren Mareiniss, MD, FACEP, Emergency Medicine Physician at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, the White House outbreak is a perfect "microcosm of what is going on in the world" and can serve as a warning for all of us. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

Asymptomatic Spread is Responsible for the Majority of Infections 

First and foremost, Dr. Mareiniss explains that this situation is a perfect example of how asymptomatic spread — one of the virus' most dangerous characteristics — works. "The incubation period of COVID-19 is anywhere from 2-10 days, with an average of 5," he explains. 

"Once you are infected with the virus, you may go for dinner and feel fine. And a few days later you have muscle aches and a fever," he says. "But now all those people you were sitting with are exposed."

Therefore, whoever initially spread the virus to the President, likely had no idea they were infected. 

If one person is infected with coronavirus, it is likely that others who are directly exposed to them — whether in an airplane, at a dinner table, or any other social function — will eventually become infected. 

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Testing Is Imperfect

Even if you are tested regularly, like President Trump is per the White House, it doesn't mean the testing is 100 percent accurate. In fact, in many cases "there are lots of false negatives," he points out. 

"I've seen a lot of people with symptoms that test negative," he maintains. "You can't be guaranteed that just because you tested negative, you aren't infected." 

This means that just because others in Trump's circle — including his daughter, Ivanka, and son, Barron, and Vice President Mike Pence — have tested negative, it isn't 100 percent assured that they aren't infected with the virus. 

RELATED: 11 Symptoms of COVID You Never Want to Get

The Fundamentals Are Crucial to Prevent the Spread 

If you are around someone who tests positive, Dr. Mareiniss suggests immediately isolating and getting tested. "Even if you test negative and do not show symptoms if you are directly exposed to COVID it is a good idea to isolate for a minimum of 5 days. If you find you are symptomatic you should re-isolate and retest."

Dr. Mareiniss urges the importance of following a few fundamental protection measures — whether or not you, or someone you know, have been exposed to the virus. 

"Stay six feet apart, practice social distancing, don't touch your face, keep your mask above your nose, don't rub your eyes (viral fomite can last on substances for several hours), avoid indoor gatherings, wear a mask indoors at all times, maximize outdoor events, use hand sanitizers," he suggests. 

"I see a lot of people interacting with other families without masks. I wouldn't do that," he states. "Asymptomatic spread is real and can happen." As for yourself: To get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah