October 27, 2020

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In a few days, more people in Trump’s orbit tested positive for coronavirus than in all of Taiwan

Trump announced his positive test early Friday, and was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center later that day. He returned to the White House Monday, where he removed his mask, despite doctors saying he was still contagious.

Meanwhile, Taiwan — the self-ruled island home to 23 million people — reported just eight new cases in the last week.

More than a dozen countries have reported fewer than 10 new coronavirus cases in the past seven days, including several that have not reported any cases at all. Not all such case numbers are reliable. Some countries are facing serious testing shortages. Others stand accused of avoiding public disclosure of their case numbers. But Taiwan has been widely praised for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Late last year, as word of an unusual respiratory illness in the Chinese city of Wuhan began to spread, Taiwanese officials scrambled to start screening passengers arriving from the city as early as Dec. 31. In January, a Taiwanese health official raised serious alarm about the virus in an attempt to warn the rest of the world about what could come next.

But it was months before many other governments realized the virus was set to upend the world as we know it.

As hospital wards became overwhelmed in hotspots across the globe, Taiwan — which was prepared to launch intensive contact tracing initiatives — has managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic. The island has confirmed just 521 coronavirus cases and seven deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. The vast majority of cases have not been domestically transmitted.

In August, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar visited the island, where he commended officials for their fast response to the pandemic, calling it “world-class.” Speaking to reporters in Taipei, Azar told reporters that Taiwan acted quickly in part because it had been “scarred” by Beijing’s handling of the SARS outbreak nearly two decades earlier.

Elsewhere, numbers are a bit cloudier.

Several countries reporting fewer than 10 cases in the past week are located in sub-Saharan Africa, including some that did not report any new cases to the World Health Organization. Although many countries in Africa appear to have fared far better against the virus than experts initially suggested they might, in some places, testing shortages or other factors could be affecting case counts.

Experts have questioned the caseload in Tanzania, for example, where President John Magufuli has insisted that the country’s outbreak is “absolutely finished.”

And when it comes to cloudy numbers, the same holds true for how many infections may trace their roots back to the White House. Numerous guests who attended the Rose Garden event told The Washington Post they have not been subject to a contact tracing effort.

And President Trump’s behavior since his diagnosis — including his decision to leave the hospital to drive past his supporters and to remove his mask upon return to the White House on Monday — has stunned epidemiologists who fear he continues to put those around him at risk of contracting the highly contagious virus.

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