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Please, Mr. President, prioritize Covid-19 prevention


Let us begin by wishing President Trump and those around him well. He, First Lady Melania Trump and several top federal officials and campaign workers were diagnosed last week with the coronavirus.

At press time, the president appeared to be on the mend, though we received conflicting reports from his doctors and press aides, so deciphering with certainty how he was faring was impossible. We hope for the best.

That said, let us be clear: Trump brought the illness on himself and those around him with his cavalier approach to disease prevention. From the start, he eschewed masks, mocking former Vice President Joe Biden for wearing them. He has not practiced social distancing, as was clear at the Sept. 26 Rose Garden ceremony for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. And he has held large indoor and outdoor rallies, at which masks have been optional, contradicting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

On Sunday, Trump left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and rode in a SUV among his supporters. Inside that hermetically sealed vehicle were Secret Service agents who were potentially exposed, despite their wearing personal protective equipment. The president’s short trip flouted CDC guidelines on social isolation recommended after a positive Covid-19 test — the patient, the agency states, should stay away from others for 10 days, and should be fever-free for at least 24 hours without medication before venturing out. This is the period during which the patient can spread the disease.

It is clear that the president’s behavior, which many have described as reckless, has sown confusion across the nation, leaving people wondering how, exactly, to protect themselves. So we thought it would be useful to pause a moment and lay out what precisely the CDC says.

The CDC, and not the president, should be your guide.

First, it’s important to understand the difference between quarantine and isolation. Those were two terms thrown around a lot last week, and they were often confused.

The CDC states that people who suspect they may have been in “close contact” with someone who was infected with the coronavirus should self-quarantine for 14 days. Close contact is defined as exposure for 15 minutes or more within six feet of someone. You also might have shared eating utensils, or hugged or shook hands. Or that person might have sneezed or coughed on you or in your direction.

When you quarantine, you remove yourself from the world, even though you may not have tested positive for the coronavirus, to ensure that you do not infect others if, in fact, you have contracted it. It is possible to show no signs of the illness and yet carry it and spread it to others, so the only way to be sure you don’t is to keep to yourself.

Even if you feel healthy, you should stay home for two weeks, the CDC states. That’s because you may not show any symptoms or test positive for two to 14 days after contact.

Isolation, as noted, is required for patients who have tested positive, and it is a must for at least 10 days, according to the CDC.

Disease prevention should be at the forefront of everyone’s minds, though, and that begins with social distancing — staying at least six feet from others — and mask wearing. The CDC states that masks should fit tightly, but should also allow you to breathe easily. You should avoid wearing your mask on you forehead or chin, and you should not touch your mask, only its straps. Finally, you should be sure it fits over your mouth and nose.

By order of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, masks are required in public spaces everywhere in New York state. We believe there should be a national mask mandate, but thus far the president has not called for one. Perhaps his illness might change his mind.

We urge readers to visit www.CDC.gov to read for themselves the coronavirus guidelines the agency has laid out. More than 200,000 people have died of Covid-19 across the United States. That grim statistic is only projected to continue climbing.

The question is, how fast will it rise? By following CDC protocols, we can slow the advance of the disease until a vaccine is at last ready for widespread use.