- The Washington Times - Friday, October 2, 2020

President Trump said early Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus and have begun to quarantine, an announcement that immediately halted campaign travel in the midst of his reelection campaign and raised questions about the impact on the administration.

The president is experiencing mild symptoms, several news outlets reported Friday morning, citing a White House source.

The White House physician said the president, 74, and Mrs. Trump, 50, “are both well at this time” and “plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence.” Dr. Sean Conley said the president is expected to continue to carry out his duties “without disruption” while recovering.

“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19,” Mr. Trump tweeted shortly before 1 a.m. Friday. “We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!”

The White House canceled the president’s campaign trip to Sanford, Florida, that had been scheduled for Friday evening. His only event on Friday will be a phone call on “COVID-19 support to vulnerable seniors.”

Mrs. Trump tweeted early Friday, “We are feeling good.”

DOCUMENT: Physician's memo on Trump positive coronavirus results

“As too many Americans have done this year, @potus & I are quarantining at home after testing positive for COVID-19,” the first lady said. “I have postponed all upcoming engagements. Please be sure you are staying safe & we will all get through this together.”

The Trumps tested positive after learning that Hope Hicks, a senior presidential aide, contracted the illness earlier in the week. Ms. Hicks, 31, had traveled with the president and many of his senior advisers on Air Force One to the presidential debate in Cleveland on Tuesday and to campaign events in Minnesota on Wednesday.

She reported experiencing mild symptoms on the flight back to Washington on Wednesday night and also is quarantining.

The announcement raised questions about how many people in Mr. Trump’s inner circle have been exposed to the disease and may also need to self-quarantine.

“Any person who test positive needs to be in self-isolation for a period of at least 10 days,” said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “The president is in a high-risk group because he is in his 70s and obese so they will have to monitor him for symptoms closely. If he has no symptoms he can likely discharge the duties of the presidency without issue, however in a socially distant self-isolated manner.”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said early Friday that “the strength of the entire country is with” the president and Mrs. Trump.

SEE ALSO: Donald Trump, Melania in coronavirus quarantine after Hope Hicks tests positive

“America stands united. Our country stands strong. Your President will continue to put the People first!” she tweeted.

Vice President Mike Pence tweeted at 1:59 a.m. on Friday, “Karen and I send our love and prayers to our dear friends President @realDonaldTrump and @FLOTUS Melania Trump. We join millions across America praying for their full and swift recovery. God bless you President Trump & our wonderful First Lady Melania.”

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said he was praying for the Trumps.

“I understand the President is working hard and feeling great,” Mr. Bernhardt tweeted. “I look forward to seeing them engaged in their regular, incredible schedule of travel once they and their medical professionals determine that’s appropriate.”

Still, Mr. Trump’s diagnosis was sure to have a destabilizing effect in Washington, raising questions about how far the virus had spread through the highest levels of the U.S. government.

The president was last seen by reporters returning to the White House on Thursday evening and did not appear visibly ill. His age puts him at higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has infected more than 7 million people nationwide.

Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tweeted, “My thoughts are with the President, First Lady, their family, as well as all others infected with and affected by this virus. This is a sobering reminder that COVID-19 is an ongoing threat to our country.”

The diagnosis marks a devastating blow for a president who has been trying desperately to convince the American public that the worst of the pandemic is behind them. On Thursday night, in a recorded address to a charity dinner in New York, the president said “we will defeat the virus.”

“Through advances in treatment, we have reduced the fatality rate by 85 percent since just April,” Mr. Trump said. “We are on track to develop and distribute a vaccine before the end of the year, and maybe substantially before. And I just want to say that the end of the pandemic is in sight, and next year will be one of the greatest years in the history of our country.”

Mr. Trump’s handling of the pandemic has already been a major flashpoint in his race against Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden, who spent much of the summer off the campaign trail and at his home in Delaware because of the virus. Mr. Biden has since resumed a more active campaign schedule, but with small, socially distanced crowds. He also regularly wears a mask in public, something that Mr. Trump mocked him for at Tuesday night’s debate.

“I don’t wear masks like him,” Mr. Trump said of his rival. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from me, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”

There was no immediate comment from the Biden campaign on whether the former vice president had been tested since appearing at the debate with Mr. Trump or whether he was taking any additional safety protocols.

Ms. Hicks had accompanied the president to the presidential debate venue in Cleveland, along with members of the Trump family. They did not wear masks during the debate, in violation of the venue rules.

Multiple White House staffers have previously tested positive for the virus, including Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and one of the president’s personal valets.

But Mr. Trump has consistently played down concerns about being personally vulnerable. Since the coronavirus emerged earlier this year, Mr. Trump has refused to abide by basic public health guidelines — including those issued by his own administration — such as wearing masks in public and practicing social distancing. Instead, he has continued to hold campaign rallies that draw thousands of supporters.

“I felt no vulnerability whatsoever,” he said told reporters back in May.

White House aides have pointed out that Mr. Trump was being tested virtually daily.

The news was sure to rattle an already shaken nation still grappling with how to safely reopen the economy without driving virus transmission. The White House has access to near-unlimited resources, including a constant supply of quick-result tests, and still failed to keep the president safe, raising questions about how the rest of the country will be able to protect its workers, students and the public as businesses and schools reopen.

Dr. Conley said he and his team will keep a “vigilant watch” on the president and Mrs. Trump.

Questions remain about why it took so long for Mr. Trump to be tested and why he and his aides continued to come to work and travel after Ms. Hicks fell ill. Mr. Trump traveled to New Jersey on Thursday for a fundraiser, exposing attendees to the virus.

Mr. Pence’s aides had no immediate comment on whether the vice president had been tested or in contact with Mr. Trump.

It is unclear where the Trumps and Ms. Hicks may have caught the virus, but in his Fox interview, Mr. Trump seemed to suggest it may have been spread by someone in the military or law enforcement.

“It’s very, very hard when you are with people from the military or from law enforcement, and they come over to you, and they want to hug you, and they want to kiss you,” he said, “because we really have done a good job for them. And you get close. And things happen.”

The White House began instituting a daily testing regimen for the president’s senior aides after earlier positive cases close to the president. Anyone in close proximity to the president or vice president is also tested every day, including reporters.

Yet since the early days of the pandemic, experts have questioned the health and safety protocols at the White House and asked why more wasn’t being done to protect the commander in chief. Mr. Trump continued to shake hands with visitors long after public health officials were warning against it and he initially resisted being tested.

Mr. Trump is far from the first world leader to test positive for the virus, which previously infected Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spent a week in the hospital, including three nights in intensive care. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was hospitalized last month while fighting what he called a “hellish” case of COVID-19.

While there is currently no evidence that Mr. 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, Mr. Trump would transmit a written note to the Senate president pro tempore, Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

Mr. Pence would serve as acting president until Mr. 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 Mr. Pence would “immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President” until Mr. Trump could provide a written declaration to the contrary.

• This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide