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Before Trump tested positive for coronavirus, he disregarded public health advice

In the seven months since the outbreak first spread across the U.S., he has flouted seemingly every basic health guideline put forth by his own government in response.

He repeatedly refused to wear a face mask, and held large rallies with hundreds of supporters who did the same, often in violation of local ordinances. He allowed the White House to continue its daily operations with scant social distancing, exposing himself to dozens of people who had taken few protections against the virus.

And again and again, he insisted such an approach was fine — because the White House was testing his close contacts every day, or because he was taking an antimalarial drug with no proven effect on healthy people exposed to the virus. Pressed on the issue during Tuesday’s presidential debate in Cleveland, he said: “So far, we have had no problem whatsoever.”

Yet as the pandemic has carried on, killing more 205,000 Americans many have pointed to that pattern of medically risky behavior to explain Trump’s own infection with the virus.

Vin Gupta, a pulmonologist at the University of Washington, said that the diagnosis was the inevitable consequence of Trump and his aides ignoring social distancing guidelines and failing to wear face masks.

“The fact that this even occurred is a damning indictment [of] their months and months of misrepresenting good public health practice,” he told MSNBC’s Brian Williams. “This did not have to happen.”

Now, Trump, a medically obese 74-year-old man whose age and weight may increase the risk of complications, must contend personally with the virus that he has spent much of his fourth year in office downplaying.

After he announced the test results early on Friday morning, White House aides said all his political events would be canceled for the foreseeable future. Trump wrote on Twitter that he and first lady Melania Trump would “begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately.”

That is a swift reversal from the loose adherence to health guidelines that he has displayed for months.

In March, as his administration scrambled to contain an outbreak quickly spreading across the country, he urged for Americans to practice social distancing at news conferences, where he and his aides often ignored that advice. Trump and members of his coronavirus task force were seen touching their faces, exchanging handshakes and congregating shoulder-to-shoulder behind the lectern.

With much of the country on lockdown, that behavior continued for months. In May, after news broke that two White Houses staffers had tested positive for the coronavirus, Trump told White House physician Sean P. Conley that he wanted to start taking hydroxychloroquine.

By then, the Food and Drug Administration had already warned against using the antimalarial drug outside a hospital setting or a clinical trial, as scientists noted the drug could in fact increase the risk of death among patients with heart problems.

But Trump demurred, noting that hydroxychloroquine had been approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments for decades. Following discussions with Conley, they decided that