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  • Peter Baker and Katie Rogers
    March 15, 2020, 10:47 AM CDTtrump bolsonaro
    (THIS WAS A PICTURE OF THE DINNER TABLE of President Donald Trump
    and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, left, during a dinner at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago
    resort in Palm Beach, Fla., March 7, 2020. (T.J. Kirkpatrick/The New York Times)
    WASHINGTON — The lights were low and the disco balls spinning as a cake
    with a fiery sparkler shooting flames into the air was brought out to a robust
    rendition of “Happy Birthday,” joined by President Donald Trump. The birthday
    girl, Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., then pumped her fist
    in the air and called out, “Four more years!”
    It was a lavish, festive, carefree Saturday evening at Mar-a-Lago a week ago in
    what in hindsight now seems like a last hurrah for the end of one era and the
    beginning of another. In the days since then, the presidential estate in Florida has
    become something of a coronavirus hot zone. A growing number of Mar-a-Lago
    guests from last weekend have said they are infected or put themselves into
    quarantine.
    A week later, the White House physician announced on Saturday night that the
    president had tested negative for the virus, ending a drama that played out for days
    as Trump refused repeatedly even to find out whether he had contracted it after
    exposure to multiple infected people. The result came less than 24 hours after the
    White House put out a misleading midnight statement saying there was no need for
    such a test at roughly the same time the president by his own account was actually
    undergoing one in deference to public pressure.
    But either way, the Mar-a-Lago petri dish has become a kind of metaphor for the
    perils of group gatherings in the age of coronavirus, demonstrating how quickly
    and silently the virus can spread. No one is necessarily safe from encountering it,
    not senators or diplomats or even the most powerful person on the planet
    seemingly secure in a veritable fortress surrounded by Secret Service agents.
    Some of last weekend’s guests worried it may be a sign of the times and the last
    party of its sort for a while at Mar-a-Lago. “I hope not,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.,
    wrote in a text message. “Humans interacting with one another are typically
    happier and more productive in my experience.”

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