News of Trump's Positive Covid Test After Family Went Maskless at Debate Caps a Dynamite Week of Bad PR for the Cleveland Clinic

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When the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University set about the closely-guarded but urgent effort to bring the first presidential debate of 2020 to Cleveland after Notre Dame bowed out, one of the world's leading hospitals probably did so with visions of unending public relations victories circling in its heads.

Instead, the Clinic has been the focus of dogged enterprise reporting illustrating its poor relationships with minorities in its home city and now finds itself on the receiving end of international headlines after President Trump announced last night that both he and Melania tested positive for COVID-19.



It's unclear where the Trumps contracted the virus, but while attending the debate in Cleveland, members of Trump's family brazenly sat in the audience without masks. Some reports indicate efforts made by Clinic personnel to get the first family to wear them, but they didn't, and weren't made to, and days later there are pictures of the maskless Trumps circulating with news of the positive test results in the Trump family.

This is hardly the "particularly good publicity" for Cleveland's health care institutions that David Gilbert, the president of Destination Cleveland, had touted in a quote to BuzzFeed earlier this week explaining how a slimmed-down event still provided an opportunity to showcase the city's chief asset.



“Hundreds of journalists worked on the main campus of Cleveland Clinic leading up to the event — establishing or reinforcing for those journalists the vibrancy of Cleveland’s healthcare economy and health education expertise,” Gilbert told BuzzFeed. “Finding ways to continue to tell the story of how Cleveland hosted a successful event during a global pandemic will help the city to further benefit from the opportunity.”

The story thus far is the Cleveland Clinic jumped at the chance to host an in-person debate during a pandemic, had an audience and allowed some of them to show up without masks.

And that story comes after two national pieces were published in the past week showing how the Clinic, which enjoys a sterling international reputation and generally little inspection locally, has left behind its Black neighbors in Cleveland (Bloomberg Businessweek) and disproportionately targeted them with its private police force (ProPublica).

So, all in all, totally worth the circus.

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