Chris Christie, post-COVID: I was wrong not to wear a mask at the White House

Has anyone else connected to the outbreak at the White House come out afterward like this and admitted error, or used their bout with the disease to encourage others to take strict precautions?


Trump did the opposite. Upon returning from Walter Reed, he urged people to go about their business and not let the virus “dominate” them, the suggestion being that COVID’s no big deal in a world where hospital care is just a phone call away.

Also, did anyone at the White House publicly acknowledge Christie while he was in the ICU for a week fighting for his life? Trump called him several times, he says in the clip below, which is nice. But I don’t remember hearing anyone mention him in public remarks while he was hospitalized.

Was Christie’s difficulty with the illness just too inconvenient for the “back to normal” messaging to be mentioned?

Either way, the big guy’s seen the light:

I believed when I entered the White House grounds, that I had entered a safe zone, due to the testing that I and many others underwent every day,” Mr. Christie said in the statement. “I was wrong. I was wrong not to wear a mask at the Amy Coney Barrett announcement and I was wrong not to wear a mask at my multiple debate prep sessions with the president and the rest of the team.”…

Unlike Mr. Trump, who has posited that he feels like “Superman” and left the hospital as quickly as possible, Mr. Christie said that the virus is “something to take very seriously. The ramifications are wildly random and potentially deadly.”…

“I don’t know who infected me and I don’t know how frequently he was tested,” he said of Mr. Trump. While aides have left the impression publicly that Mr. Trump was tested daily, the president himself has acknowledged he was not.

Mr. Christie said that even at the event for Ms. Barrett on Sept. 26, “I was put in the third row, and what they told us was that everybody in the first three rows had been tested that day and tested negative.”


He thought he was in a safe zone at the White House, where masks are frowned upon and there’s hardly any social distancing? Mitch McConnell hasn’t been inside the building for two months for his own safety, knowing that it was a biohazard waiting to happen.

It’s like getting infected at a kegger at a party-school dorm and saying, “I had no idea that might put me at risk.”

Christie’s timing in giving this advice is fortunate, though, as we’re at another bad point nationally. The COVID Tracking Project crunched its latest numbers yesterday and declared that the “third wave” has indeed now clearly descended on the United States.

Deaths are up three percent from the week before; hospitalizations are up 14 percent. Here’s one of the more dramatic visualizations I’ve seen lately of the state of play:

You can see the regional waves there in the color codes. The northeast got it early, the south got it this summer, now it’s the midwest’s turn. But not just the midwest: So many parts of the country are seeing outbreaks this week that we could discard the midwest entirely and still have a record number of states at the peak of their case counts.

Trump and his acolytes have been talking lately about “herd immunity” as a possible solution to the crisis, in which the old and vulnerable isolate themselves and everyone else goes about their business. That was the UK strategy for a brief time in February, soon abandoned because (a) it was logistically impossible and (b) even a lot of “healthy” people would have been culled if the virus had run rampant among them. I recommend this Tyler Cowen critique of the Great Barrington Declaration, which is in vogue this week among lockdown opponents because it recommends a herd-immunity strategy for otherwise healthy people. Cowen can’t understand why anyone would want to let things rip right now, when we’re on the cusp of a vaccine that will — hopefully — create herd immunity without all the needless death. Neither can I. Cowen also wonders how, exactly, authorities would get “healthy” people to behave normally when many millions of those people have watched what happened to Trump and Christie, read the harrowing accounts of people debilitated by COVID months after they’ve “recovered,” and decided they’re going to self-isolate as fully as possible whether there’s a lockdown or not.


I wonder the same thing. A major theater chain just shut its doors, not because lockdown rules prevented Americans from going but because there aren’t enough moviegoers willing to risk infection to keep those theaters afloat. Trump is quite likely to lose his bid for reelection three weeks from now because he never grasped that most voters are risk-averse when it comes to a novel killer disease, not risk-neutral like him. Tell them it’s time for herd immunity and they’re all apt to think the same thing: You first.

Anyway, here’s Christie, who says he went from feeling fine to being in the ICU in the span of 24 hours. By the way, a Twitter pal makes a good point about the new surge in U.S. cases. The electoral consequences of that are secondary to the humanitarian ones, but if you’re thinking about the potential effect on turnout, remember that Democrats are far more likely to vote by mail than Republicans. If swing states are battling truly frightening outbreaks on November 3, a lot of Biden votes will already have been banked while Trump’s votes will depend on people’s willingness to show up and stand in line that day. Most will brave it, especially the hardcore MAGA fans. But what about the “soft” Trump voters? Especially if protocols to prevent infection slow down the voting process and produce long, long waits?

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