The Rose Garden ceremony in which Trump officially nominated Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a justice of the Supreme Court appears to have been a coronavirus super-spreader event. Trump did not wear a mask and few of his guests did. They also mingled like old times and sat shoulder to shoulder. Several people who attended, including two U.S. senators, have since tested positive for the virus. One thing that has not been touched on much by the commentators I’ve listened to on CNN and MSNBC: What does her maskless appearance at this event say about the judgement of Trump’s nominee?
A Maryland attorney dropped me a line about this Sunday: “The videos I have seen show people shaking hands, hugging and even kissing. Just as President Trump has missed numerous opportunities to serve as a model to Americans by wearing a mask, Judge Barrett missed an opportunity here as well. I am sure that she thought about whether she should wear a mask, what the protocol was, etc., and I am certain that if she had been asked by the White House to wear a mask that she would have done so. Same with her husband. But, no. There she was, with her husband and seven children, all maskless, all surrounded by and close to maskless others, engaging in thoughtless and risky behavior.
“Now, we know that Trump engages in risky behavior. But I would like a Justice of the Supreme Court to be thoughtful, intelligent and level headed. Judge Barrett, at least on this occasion, falls outside that standard.
“I’ve appeared in front of hundreds of judges. What I want to see in any judge — whether a District Court Judge in Baltimore or a Supreme Court justice or any judge in between — is someone who is level headed, thoughtful and exercises good judgment. No judge is right all of the time. But, I expect thoughtfulness and intelligence.”
One can assume that Barrett was not about to buck the White House on protocol during her big, first moment in the spotlight. If that’s the case, it raises a question about her independence.
And didn’t she feel she was putting her kids at risk?
Two other things worth noting:
While the White House tested guests, not wearing masks into the Rose Garden was still risky. According to the CDC, even those who test negative have the potential to spread the disease, and people who are asymptomatic are able to transmit the virus. There is also the potential for false negatives in testing.
So for all those reasons, it is advised that we wear masks where social distancing is not possible.
And then there’s this: According to CNN and The Washington Post, both Barrett and her husband had the coronavirus over the summer. Obviously, they survived and — this is speculation, of course — they appear to believe they can’t get it again.
The scientific jury is out on whether a person who was infected once and survived can be infected again; it has happened, however. Here’s what Dr. Fauci’s office says about it: “There have been rare reports of people recovering from infection with SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, only to test positive a second time. Such results might be explained by reports that the virus can linger in our systems.”
Maybe Judge Barrett has been absorbed in legal work and hasn’t paid attention to all the COVID news. Or maybe she’s just not exceptional. Maybe she’s like many other conservatives who think we’ve overreacted, infringed on individual liberty and need to reopen the economy fully. It’s quite clear that Trump’s nominee is a devout Catholic; maybe she thinks the pandemic is an act of God and we should just accept the Almighty’s judgement.
Yes, your honor, that last bit was speculation, but, in Trumpworld, hardly far-fetched.