The Cleveland Clinic came under fire Friday after President Donald Trump announced that he and Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19, days after participating in a presidential debate held on the clinic's campus.
Numerous media reports and photos showed the Trump family not wearing masks while in attendance at the debate, which was held Sept, 29 at the Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion at the Health Education Campus at Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic. The president and first lady went into quarantine Oct. 1, after one of the president's closest advisors, Hope Hicks, tested positive for COVID-19.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on July 23 implemented a statewide mask mandate requiring individuals to wear masks in public if indoors and not at a residence, unless a medical condition prohibits it. Likewise, the clinic requires all caregivers, patients and visitors to its campus wear masks unless a health or behavioral issue prevents it.
Cleveland Clinic in July was chosen as a site for the first presidential debate after the University of Notre Dame withdrew over COVID-19 concerns. The clinic serves as the health security advisor for the Commission on Presidential Debates' fall debates. Health and safety plans developed for the first debate will guide future debates, the clinic said.
During the first debate, Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University said they took many precautions, including distancing between seats, personal health screening and safety measures and disinfectant measures. Reporters at the debate said a clinic doctor tried to get the Trump family to wear masks but was rejected.
In a statement released Friday, the Cleveland Clinic said it had safety requirements in place for social distancing, hand sanitizing, temperature checks and masking and that everyone allowed inside the debate hall had a negative COVID-19 test.
"Based on what we know about the virus and the safety measures we had in place, we believe there is low risk of exposure to our guests," the clinic said.
The health system plans to reach out to those who were in attendance out of caution.
The commission did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing masks in public, as do most healthcare associations, including the American Hospital Association, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The AHA, in partnership with the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association, are running a Wear a Mask campaign, urging people "to follow science: continue social distancing, washing hands for at least 20 seconds, and most importantly, to wear a face covering when outside the home."
In April, the Mayo Clinic also was criticized after Vice President Mike Pence refused to wear a mask while visiting with patents and staff. Mayo had put a mask requirement in place earlier that month for all patients and visitors. The vice president later publicly acknowledged that he should have worn a mask.
Trump has repeatedly refused to wear a mask in public, and his supporters booed Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted during a campaign rally in Dayton Sept. 21 when the Republican encouraged mask usage.
In the U.S., there have been 7,213,419 cases of COVID-19 and 206,402 deaths, as of Oct. 1, according to the latest CDC data.