U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday that he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for COVID-19 after a top aide he spent substantial time with this week tested positive for the coronavirus.
“We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately,” Trump said on Twitter. “We will get through this TOGETHER!”
A letter published by the White House from Trump’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, confirmed the diagnosis. Conley said the president and first lady are “both well at this time” and will be quarantining in the White House.
“Rest assured I expect the President to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering,” he wrote.
Melania Trump said she and her husband were “feeling good” and that she was postponing all upcoming engagements.
She said the couple was quarantining “as too many Americans have done this year.”
Vice-President Mike Pence tested negative for the virus on Friday morning and “remains in good health,” his spokesman said.
Pence took to Twitter and said he and his wife Karen are sending “our love and prayers to our dear friends,” adding they “join millions across America praying for their full and swift recovery.”
Many White House and senior administration officials were undergoing tests Friday, but the full scale of the outbreak around the president may not be known for some time as it can take days for an infection to be detectable by a test.
Hope Hicks, one of the president’s most trusted and longest-serving confidantes, began feeling mild symptoms during the plane ride home from a rally in Minnesota Wednesday evening, according to an administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private information. She was isolated from other passengers aboard the plane and her diagnosis was confirmed Thursday, the person said.
Hicks, who serves as counsellor to the president, also accompanied him and other senior aides to the first presidential debate in Cleveland on Tuesday. She is the closest White House official to Trump to test positive for the virus so far.
Trump’s diagnosis marks a major blow for a president who has been trying desperately to convince the American public that the worst of the pandemic is behind them even as cases continue to rise shortly before Election Day. And it stands as the most serious known public health scare encountered by any sitting American president in recent history.
Just before Trump announced on Twitter that he and Melania Trump would begin a “quarantine process,” the White House distributed a schedule for Friday that showed he planned to go forward with a fundraiser at his Washington, D.C., hotel and a political rally in Sanford, Florida.
Those events were quickly cancelled by the White House, according to an updated schedule.
Earlier, during a call-in interview with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, Trump appeared unsure about his next moves, saying, “Whether we quarantine or whether we have it, I don’t know. I just went for a test and we’ll see what happens.”
Hicks travelled with the president multiple times this week, including aboard Marine One, the presidential helicopter, and on Air Force One to a rally in Minnesota Wednesday, and aboard Air Force One to Tuesday night’s first presidential debate in Cleveland.
Trump had consistently played down concerns about being personally vulnerable to contracting COVID-19, even after White House staff and allies were exposed and sickened.
“I felt no vulnerability whatsoever,” he said told reporters back in May.
He has instead encouraged governors to reopen their states and tried to focus the nation’s attention on efforts to revive the economy — not a growing death toll — as he seeks another four-year term.
The White House got its first COVID-19 scare in early March when at least three people who later tested positive came in close proximity to the president at his private Florida club.
Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and other senior staff have been tested for COVID-19 daily since two people who work at the White House complex tested positive in early May, including Pence’s press secretary.
Those diagnoses prompting the White House to step up precautions, including mandatory masks throughout the West Wing —a measure that was later dropped by many staff and not enforced. Everyone who comes into contact with the president also receives a quick-result test.
Other world leaders and members of their families have tested positive for the coronavirus, including in Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau worked from home in isolation after his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, fell ill with the virus in March. More recently, the leaders of both the Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois have also tested positive.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spent a week in the hospital, including three nights in intensive care, where he was given oxygen and watched around the clock by medical workers. German Chancellor Angela Merkel self-isolated after a doctor who gave her a vaccination tested positive for the virus.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro — who, like Trump, has played down the severity of the pandemic — tested positive for the virus three times over the summer.
While there is currently no evidence that Trump is seriously ill, the positive test raises questions about what would happen if he were to become incapacitated due to illness.
The Constitution’s 25th Amendment spells out the procedures under which a president can declare themselves “unable to discharge the powers and duties” of the presidency. If he were to make that call, Trump would transmit a written note to the Senate president pro tempore, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pence would serve as acting president until Trump transmitted “a written declaration to the contrary.”
The vice-president and a majority of either the Cabinet or another body established by law, can also declare the president unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, in which case Pence would “immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President” until Trump could provide a written declaration to the contrary.
Over 7.27 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the U.S., leading the world in confirmed infections, according to public health data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The country has also seen more deaths from the virus than any other nation, with over 207,000 lives lost to date.
—With files from the Associated PressView link »