CORONAVIRUS

Contact Tracers Waited On Names Of Trump Fundraiser Guests Who Had Already Scattered

Social media posts show people who went to the New Jersey event with Trump had fanned out across the country, going out in public and not wearing masks.

New Jersey contact tracers did not have a complete list of the names of those who attended a Bedminster fundraiser Thursday with President Donald Trump, just hours before his COVID-19 diagnosis, until at least Friday afternoon, 24 hours after the event, HuffPost has learned.

The Republican National Committee sent the names of those it knew had attended to the office of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) at 2:30 p.m. Friday, a spokesperson for the RNC said. 

But asked if the state had a list of everyone who attended — not just donors, but outside vendors and members of the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster staff — a senior aide to Murphy said Friday afternoon that the state was still waiting for the full roster, which it was compiling from information from the RNC, the White House and the golf club.

The aide said all three were being “cooperative.” On Friday night, the state confirmed it had all the names. “We have received the information, and contact tracing has begun,” the spokesperson, who asked to remain unnamed, said. Murphy noted Friday night that, “as far as we know, folks are cooperating, and we need them to.” 

Trump reportedly came into contact with 100 people at the fundraiser and seemed “lethargic,” a common symptom of the novel coronavirus.

His campaign had emailed the attendees by about noon Friday to urged them to contact a doctor if they began to experience COVID-19 symptoms. But his team reportedly neglected to alert Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s campaign of his diagnosis; Biden officials said they learned about it through media reports. Trump and Biden shared a stage on Tuesday night for their first presidential debate. Biden said he has tested negative for COVID-19.

At least a few people who attended Trump’s Bedminster fundraiser are disregarding pleas to self-quarantine, HuffPost has found, and appear to be in public settings with other people without wearing masks.

Brandon Dawson, the CEO and founder of the Washington-based firm Audigy Group, and his fiancée, Natalie Workman, were both guests at the fundraiser.

“Met the President @realdonaldtrump of the United States today,” Dawson captioned an Instagram photo of himself and Workman, both mask-free, indoors at the event. In subsequent Instagram Stories on Thursday, the pair documented themselves taking a private plane to Phoenix. At one point, Dawson appeared to be in very close proximity to two pilots in the cockpit, at least one of whom was not wearing a mask.

On Friday afternoon, more than 12 hours after news broke of Trump’s positive diagnosis, Dawson and Workman each posted a series of Instagram Stories of themselves touring a building under construction in Arizona together, where at least one other person was present. No one was wearing a mask.

Dawson, who joked on video about stifling a sneeze, claimed in comments on his Instagram post that he and Workman had already tested negative for COVID-19. But getting tested within 24 hours of potential exposure to the virus is unlikely to yield accurate results, according to MIT Medical — a concern Murphy also emphasized in his remarks urging people to immediately isolate themselves.

Later in the day, Dawson appeared on social media to be at an indoor business conference in Scottsdale, where few or no participants wore masks or practiced social distancing. He and Workman did not respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment via phone call, text message or email.

In interviews with the New Jersey Globe, three people who attended Trump’s fundraiser in Bedminster also claimed that they would get tested Friday, but said they do not intend to self-quarantine until they receive their test results.

In social media footage from Workman, Dawson and political activist Charlie Kolean, multiple people could be seen gathered outside the Bedminster golf club without masks, including the three of them. After it ended, Kolean and another attendee filmed themselves driving through Times Square and elsewhere in Manhattan, briefly exiting their vehicle to take photos in front of the Charging Bull statue on Wall Street and to walk around. Trump’s diagnosis was not yet public; Kolean declined to comment on the record.

Virtually everyone who attended Thursday’s fundraiser is by now probably already aware of Trump’s diagnosis. But contact tracers do more than alert people when they have been exposed to COVID-19. They provide accurate medical information about testing and quarantining, and they may call other close contacts, making lists of who attended the Trump event crucial.

Spokespeople for the White House and the Trump National golf course did not respond to questions about their efforts to help with contact tracing. An RNC spokesperson said “every guest was at least six feet from the president at all times,” but did not respond to the question about whether it had provided the guests’ names to contact tracers.

The senior official for Murphy projected confidence in the state’s ability to carry out contact tracing for everyone who was at the event.

Saying the state has had a tracing program in place for several months, he added, “Within minutes of us seeing the news, we started the contact tracing process.”

Local and county officials run contact tracing in New Jersey, with help from the state as needed.

It is not clear how many supporters Trump spent time with indoors, where the coronavirus is more likely to spread, versus outdoors. 

Attendees told the New Jersey Globe that the more crowded portion of Trump’s fundraiser was held outdoors, but a roundtable and photo-op with the president was held indoors. Sixteen donors attended the roundtable, which reportedly cost $250,000 per head. But a separate report by the Washington Post said Trump met with “dozens” of supporters at the roundtable.

The Trump National Golf Club was slated to host a large annual tournament known as the Gentleman’s Invitational, the Globe reported, which involves more than 180 golfers and at least two people who attended the Thursday fundraiser with the president: golf pro Mickie Gallagher III and club general manager David Schutzenhofer.

Schutzenhofer, whom HuffPost reached by phone, declined to answer any questions about Thursday night’s event or the tournament scheduled for Friday.

Travis Waldron contributed reporting.

Do you have information about the fundraiser or the other events Trump attended just before his COVID-19 diagnosis? Send us a confidential tip: molly.redden@huffpost.com and jesselyn.cook@huffpost.com.


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