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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Biden supporters in Washington say Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis shows need for masks, pro-science candidates

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden arrives at United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 951 on Friday in Grand Rapids, Mich.  (Andrew Harnik/AP)

In the wake of President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis, local Democrats and supporters of challenger Joe Biden urged people to wear masks, support candidates who take precautions and advocate for public health.

On Thursday at about 10 p.m., Trump tweeted that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the virus. Local Democrats and Biden supporters said they hope he recovered soon, but his diagnosis shows how important it is for candidates to take the virus seriously before they’re directly affected.

Spokane County Democratic Chair Nicole Bishop offered her sympathy to the president and his family but said his diagnosis is a sign people need to take precautions and shows the need for a president who takes public health seriously.

“I seriously hope and care for their health, but their contracting COVID-19 doesn’t erase the 200,000 deaths that have happened across the country on his watch,” Bishop said. “It doesn’t take away a lot of the economic devastation, the rising white nationalism, the criminality, all of those things that happened before he contracted COVID-19 are still the case, and we can’t let that distract us. The reality is, we can’t choose to care about something when we’re impacted personally.”

Bishop is the primary caregiver for her mother, who has cancer, and said she has been taking every precaution she can, and has been frustrated by the political discourse and anti-masking attitudes that are pervasive in the White House and Spokane County.

“Trump’s tragic contraction of the virus shows that no one is immune and that safety precautions are absolutely essential,” she said.

While Trump and Biden debated in person Tuesday, the former vice president’s physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, said Biden and his wife tested negative for the virus in a statement released Friday on the Biden campaign’s website.

Biden returned to the campaign trail Friday afternoon, wearing a mask while he addressed the public. He appeared in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Friday, but canceled a second event planned at an indoor venue over concerns that too many people planned to attend, according to the New York Times.

Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, and her husband also tested negative for the virus. Several members of Congress and the president’s staff have tested positive.

Biden campaign staff and a volunteer in Washington state said all campaign events locally were still being held virtually.

Lori Feagan, a Democrat, nurse practitioner and state representative candidate for the 4th Legislative District, said Trump’s diagnosis and his dismissal of public health guidelines was concerning.

She said as a health care provider, she has seen people die or become extremely sick from the virus, and she’s chosen to run her campaign virtually to reduce any potential risk to her patients.

“I believe that leaders should lead by example,” she said.

Feagan said she was taking a watchful approach while observing the president’s situation, noting that his age and weight put him at high risk of complications.

“This virus doesn’t pick and choose who’s going to recover quickly and who is devastated,” she said. “I’m doing the watchful waiting approach and hoping for the best.”

Nick Castrolang, chair of the Spokane County Young Democrats, said he was worried and frustrated about how many people with whom Trump has been in contact and exposed to the virus since he become infected, and if that put their vulnerable family members at risk.

“When you’re the leader of the free world, you should be leading on these issues,” he said.

Castrolang said he’s hoping Trump’s diagnosis will help young people realize they need to vote for a candidate who takes public health seriously.

“I think this is probably going to reiterate to my generation, and people voting for the first time, why leaders that believe in facts, science and evidence-based practices are the ones we want in charge,” he said.

Melinda Goforth, a former congressional staffer for Biden and campaign volunteer based in the Seattle area, said Biden has taken precautions and she’s hopeful he’ll win more support because he’s consistently followed public health guidelines throughout his campaign and not put voters in danger.

Goforth said she went to Iowa during the caucus to show her support for Biden, and plans to continue participating in virtual campaign events in Washington.

“He’s always talked about the importance of health and safety and following science, following truth and following the data, and following what medical experts tell us,” she said.