Why won't White House say when Trump last tested negative?

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

White House director of communications Alyssa Farah waves after speaking with reporters at the White House, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON – It is a basic, crucial question and one the White House refuses to answer: When was President Donald Trump's last negative test for the coronavirus before he tested positive last week?

“Yeah, I’m not going to give you a detailed readout with timestamps every time the president’s tested," White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters last weekend.

“I can’t reveal that at this time," echoed Alyssa Farah, the White House director of strategic communications. “Doctors would like to keep it private.”

“I don’t want to go backwards,” said Dr. Sean Conley, the president’s physician.

The answer could help fill in vital details about the course of the president’s illness as well as when he may have been contagious and whom else he may have exposed. And the White House refusal to answer makes it hard not to wonder what they're hiding, given other details they've shared.

“At this point it's just so strange that they're unwilling to give us the information," said Michael Joseph Mina, a physician and professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s school of public health. “It makes people start thinking things like, ‘Was the president the super-spreader?’... If there was no nefarious activity going on, then they should have no problem answering this question.”

The information is also key to tracking who else may have been exposed to the virus so their contacts can be traced to prevent new clusters of infection.

“Then you can get an idea, potentially, of when he was infected, how long his incubation period was, and also then evaluate who may have been exposed to him over that time frame,” said Benjamin Pinsky, medical director of the clinical virology laboratory at Stanford Health Care. While there is considerable variability between cases, he said, Trump was most likely infectious several days before he tested positive — a period during which he traveled and had close contact with dozens of people.