Late last night, news that President Donald Trump and the first lady contracted the coronavirus sent Twitter into a fury of mixed emotions. Some users expressed their happiness, in light of the constant downplay the president regarded to the pandemic. Other users feared what a presidency would look like under Mike Pence. But an ongoing conversation about the authenticity of the White House’s positive COVID result claim caused several users to question if this could be an opportunity for Trump to postpone the election.
Conspiracy theories surrounding Trump’s candidacy are not new. When he defeated Hilary Clinton in 2016, many people speculated that the results were somehow skewed. More recently, skeptics surrounding Trump’s relationship with Russia have risen after news broke that a small Russian bank quietly moved $330 million into Deutsche Bank’s New York branch during the time period that it was lending to the president. And after Tuesday’s presidential debate, when the president stated that he wants to see a “fair election” and mentioned that ballots are “are being dumped in rivers” and sold by mailmen—which there is no evidence of—some Twitter users figured he would say or do anything within his means to avoid losing to Joe Biden.
According to the 25th Amendment, under unprecedented health conditions, a president can temporarily transfer power to the vice president and can reclaim his authority once he considers himself well again. This is where conspiracy theorists have opened a discourse around the possibility of a postponed election.
Would Trump postpone the election? Many online denizens think so
"A lot of celebrating around this morning. I’m more very worried about how this will be twisted by his team as an election line, used brutally as an excuse if he loses to delegitimise the election, used as reasoning to postpone, spun as strength by right wing media, and more..." tweeted the Guardian's Head of Video Charlie Phillips.
Other users saw this as a hoax to denounce the severity of the virus, claiming that the president will recover quickly, with no issues, and then express that to his supporters. Given that the president has often gone on camera to downplay the risks and dangers associated with COVID-19, frequently refuses to wear a mask in highly populated areas, and has supported those who complain about mask-wearing, it comes as no surprise that conspiracy theorists are wondering if his positive coronavirus results are a tactic to stage the virus as low-risk.
There are five days until the vice presidential debate, 13 days until the next presidential debate, and 32 days until the election. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “most people with coronavirus who have symptoms will no longer be contagious by 10 days after symptoms resolve. People who test positive for the virus but never develop symptoms over the following 10 days after testing are probably no longer contagious, but again there are documented exceptions.” The uncertainty is causing most health practitioners to recommend isolating for 14 days, regardless of showing symptoms or not.
There is also great uncertainty regarding Trump’s situation. It’s been reported that he is currently asymptomatic, however, showing symptoms or not, he will likely be forced to pause in-person rallies and campaigning to decrease the risk of exposing others to the virus. It's unclear how this news will affect his presidency, whether it be a method to postpone the election, a means to discredit the virus, or an excuse if the Republican Party loses next month.
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