Is this the event that caused coronavirus to start surging through the White House?

At least eight people who attended an event at the White House Rose Garden a week ago have since been diagnosed with COVID-19, including US President Donald Trump.

President Donald Trump stands with Judge Amy Coney Barrett as they announce her as his nominee to the Supreme Court, in the White House Rose Garden.

President Donald Trump stands with Judge Amy Coney Barrett as they announce her as his nominee to the Supreme Court, in the White House Rose Garden. Source: AAP

It's the high-profile White House event in the spotlight after several attendees - including the US president - later tested positive to COVID-19.

Images suggest there was little social distancing or mask-wearing as Donald Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his US Supreme Court nominee at a White House Rose Garden ceremony last Saturday.

Now, at least eight attendees have tested positive to the coronavirus and there are renewed calls for Judge Barrett's confirmation hearing to be delayed.

Guests applaud Donald Trump as he introduces Judge Amy Coney Barrett as Supreme Court nominee in the Rose Garden at the White House.
Source: Getty Images

Those at the event who have since returned positive COVID-19 tests include Mr Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, Republican senators Mike Lee and Thom Tillis, University of Notre Dame President John Jenkins, former White House aide Kellyanne Conway, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and an unnamed journalist.

It's not known if any of them actually caught the virus at the event.

Rev Jenkins has since said he regrets "certain choices I made that day and for failing to lead as I should have".

In a statement posted to the Notre Dame website on 28 September, Rev Jenkins said he was tested for COVID-19 on arrival at the White House and received a negative result, before being told it was safe to remove his mask.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Attorney General William Barr and former White House aide Kellyanne Conway talk in the Rose Garden at the event.
Source: Getty Images

"I regret my error of judgment in not wearing a mask during the ceremony and by shaking hands with a number of people in the Rose Garden," he said. "I failed to lead by example, at a time when I’ve asked everyone else in the Notre Dame community to do so."

Mr Christie and Mr Lee were shown embracing people in vision from the event, while other attendees were seen shaking hands.

Despite the number of cases already linked to the ceremony, doubt has been cast on whether it could be classified as a 'super-spreader' event given it was outdoors.

However, the lack of distancing and high number of White House officials present has sparked concern that additional cases linked to the upper echelons of the US government could still arise from the ceremony.

Calls for confirmation to be delayed

Democrats are now calling for Judge Barrett's confirmation hearings to be delayed, with Mr Lee and Mr Tillis both members of the committee which is scheduled to begin the hearings on her nomination on 12 October.

However, Republicans seem determined to push ahead with plans to get the conservative judge installed to the Supreme Court before the November election.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Saturday said all Senate floor activity will be rescheduled until 19 October, but committee work, including Judge Barrett's confirmation hearings, will continue and senators could attend those hearings in-person or remotely.

Chris Christie greets others after President Donald Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett  as his nominee to the Supreme Court in the White House Rose Garden.
Source: Getty Images

Chuck Schumer, the Democrat's Senate leader, has argued for a confirmation vote to take place after the election, describing Mr McConnell's decision to proceed with the hearings as dangerous and reckless.

Mr Schumer and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein on Friday said it was too soon to commit to a hearing schedule when they didn't yet know how far the president's COVID-19 infection had spread through Washington DC.

They said a virtual confirmation for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench was not an acceptable substitute.

"All circuit court nominees have appeared in person during the pandemic, and there is far more at stake for the American people with this Supreme Court nomination, including the Affordable Care Act being struck down and more than seven million COVID survivors being denied health coverage," Mr Schumer and Ms Feinstein said in a joint statement. 

Judge Barrett tested negative for coronavirus on Friday, according to the White House.

She is Mr Trump's pick to succeed the late liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who reportedly told her granddaughter she didn't want the Senate to consider a successor until next year.

With Reuters.

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Published 4 October 2020 at 12:30pm
By Jodie Stephens