It’s the last thing Donald Trump needs just days out from the looming US election – another coronavirus outbreak linked to the White House.
But it’s not the only campaign-damaging controversy the US President had to deal with over the weekend.
Before we get to those, though, let’s address the elephant in the room. Is Melania Trump still sick with COVID-19?
That’s certainly the theory being floated on social media as the Twitter hashtag #FakeMelania began surfacing.
It all stemmed from a photograph of the first lady and Mr Trump boarding a helicopter ahead of the Trump-Biden debate in Nashville.
Social media users have since embarked on a deep-dive of previous photos of Ms Trump to support their theory that a body double was being used on the campaign trail. Their evidence? The wrinkles around FLOTUS’ mouth and the shape of her nose.
Where did her smile wrinkles go? Teeth are different. Lips are different. Smile is different shape. It is so obviously a #FakeMelania pic.twitter.com/xChVEthWG0
— Natty 🇦🇺🦘 (@tta_nat) October 25, 2020
Adding fuel to the speculation was the fact the first lady did not cast a vote while her husband was at the ballot box saying “I voted for a guy named Trump”.
It wasn’t the only scandal involving the first lady at the weekend. The big question remained: Why is she inviting families to a Halloween event at the White House?
The timing of the planned party couldn’t be worse; the scariest thing happening in the lead-up to Halloween is a spike in coronavirus cases.
On Sunday, the US posted another grim COVID-19 record after confirming more than 83,000 infections in a single day.
The previous record was 77,362 cases on July 16 – with the new peak an ominous sign the country’s second wave is becoming increasingly aggressive.
More than 225,100 Americans have died after contracting COVID-19, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University on Monday morning (Australian time).
It has since emerged that US Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, was among those to contract the coronavirus recently.
Then on Monday morning (Australian time), it was confirmed a further three aides to Mr Pence tested positive for COVID-19.
He and his wife Karen tested negative on Saturday (US time). However, the couple has been told to monitor symptoms closely given their frequent contact with Mr Short.
Mr Pence has not cancelled his campaign plans.
Vice President Mike Pence. Photo: Getty
The US’s upward trend of skyrocketing coronavirus cases is fuelling anger at the Trump administration, with fingers pointing not only at the President, but also at his daughter Ivanka and his wife.
An anti-Trump group has even gone so far as installing billboards critical of Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner – both top White House aides – in New York’s Times Square.
On the billboards, Mr Kushner is pictured saying: “New Yorkers are going to suffer – and that’s their problem”, while his wife is pictured smiling next to the words: “33,366+ New Yorkers, 221,247+ Americans”.
A billboard by The Lincoln Project depicting Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner in Times Square. Photo: Getty
Mr Kushner’s quote was taken from a recent Vanity Fair article in which he criticised New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s response to the pandemic.
More than 33,000 New Yorkers have died from the coronavirus so far.
Ms Trump and Mr Kushner have since threatened to sue billboard organisers The Lincoln Project, a group of Republican strategists who oppose the re-election of Mr Trump.
The couple’s lawyer said legal action would “doubtless be enormous compensatory and punitive damages”.
But The Lincoln Project is not backing down, and it appears the billboards will be here to stay.
“Please peddle your scare tactics elsewhere,” was its legal response.
“The Lincoln Project will not be intimidated by such empty bluster.”
The Lincoln Project’s legal response to the frivolous threat of a lawsuit from Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s lawyer.
This will not be the last they hear from us. pic.twitter.com/GNnFsnsCer
— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) October 24, 2020
Meanwhile, attention has been turned on the First Lady after she announced a White House Halloween party would go ahead despite concerns.
Ms Trump revealed the plans on Twitter, announcing the administration’s fourth annual Halloween celebration would be held on Sunday afternoon (US time).
On Sunday, @POTUS & I will safely welcome frontline workers, military families, schoolchildren & trick-or-treaters for the annual @WhiteHouse #Halloween celebration. We look forward to seeing all of you for this year’s festivities! https://t.co/ax905gVIDR
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) October 23, 2020
As part of the festivities, the White House gates will be flung open to frontline workers, military families and schoolchildren with their parents.
Critics were quick to slam the decision, pointing to the infamous “super spreader” White House Rose Garden event to introduce Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
The event was attended by more than 250 guests packed closely together, resulting in dozens of coronavirus infections – including the first lady.
In an effort to quell safety fears, Ms Trump said “extra precautions” had been taken to “help ensure the health and safety of all guests wishing to participate in this year’s spooky celebration”.
Measures include mandatory face masks, limiting capacity and extending event hours, as well as enforcing social distancing rules and a no-touch approach.